Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Battlefield Cross & Memorial Day

The Battlefield Cross
Dear Friends,

For me, Memorial Day has always been a very special day.

Maybe it's because I grew up being taught to respect our military and understand what they sacrifice. Maybe it's because I learned at a young age that those who fight for our liberty and freedoms, themselves live lives without many of the liberties and freedoms that civilians take for granted. 

Of course, maybe it's because I knew of those who served and died in Vietnam. Maybe it's because I was in the last Operation during the fall of Saigon in those last days of the Vietnam War. 

And yes. it could be that I really understand how those serving die in all sorts of places in all kinds of circumstances. Yes, whether it is in war upon war, engagement after engagement, conflicts big and small, those serving in our military die for us. 

Yes, besides the great wars such as World War One and World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam, there are those who were sent in to retrieve the SS Mayaguez and free 33 American Merchant Marines -- and were Killed In Action freeing those Americans. 

Yes, there were those sent serve in Beirut, Lebanon, when a Muslim suicide truck bomber killed hundreds of our troops there. And yes, our troops have died in Granada, Panama, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, aboard the USS Cole, and even at the Pentagon during 9/11.   

For me, I don't take them for granted. And frankly, that's probably because I know that while those serving carry the load of the nation and die while doing that, there are those who demand all of the benefits of citizenship -- yet shirk their duty to serve our nation.

So yes, we should understand and appreciate that Memorial Day is our time to pay them some respect to those who died while serving, to salute them, and honor them. It's our day to set a few moments in a year aside to thank those who paid the biggest price there is for us. All for us, all so that we may remain free.

Now with the addition of a Battlefield Cross to our American Legion post here in tiny Glencoe, California, we have come close to completing our memorial to those who have died while serving in our nation's armed forces. Yes, to those who've paid the supreme price in defense of our nation.

For those who have never been taught or simply wonder how I and others know they died making the supreme sacrifice in defense of our nation, it is because they died while serving as the defenders of our way of life, our society, our culture and traditions, our America, our family and friends. Yes, they died while serving in defense of you and me and those we love. 

While some may argue the politics of every war, before, during, and after every war, we are not going to do that here. Today, we are not going to do that. 

Instead, today, I'm going to talk about the Battlefield Cross which is also known as the Fallen Soldier Battle Cross or simply a Battle Cross. It is a symbolic replacement of a cross. It acts as an appropriate marker on the battlefield or at a base camp, or at a Memorial Day service, to honor Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.

The practice of using the Battlefield Cross is said to have started during the American Civil War when so many died on American soil and the dead filled field upon field. But their are reports that say the practice was started earlier as a means of identifying dead bodies on a battleground before they were buried or removed. One report says the practice may go back to ancient times when helmets were placed atop swords stuck in the ground next to fallen warriors. 

While today the cross is used a lot less as a means to identify the dead where they lay, it is used for those on bases as a way of attending the funeral when not possible to do so. And yes, it is used as a way for those still living to mourn.

Today, for us, the purpose for the Battlefield Cross is that and to show respect and honor our dead. And since memorial ceremonies are tributes to the deceased, the Battlefield Cross is a visible reminder of our comrades, sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, fathers or mothers, all who have died while serving in our nation's armed forces.

The Cross itself is made up of a service rifle stuck into the ground with the fallen's helmet placed atop the inverted rifle. While the fallen's dog-tags are sometimes placed on the rifle, the fallen's boots are placed next to the rifle. 

The helmet, as personal an item as a warrior can have, signify who he or she is. The inverted rifle signals a time for prayer. The combat boots represent the final march of their last battle.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday. It is a day for remembering. Memorial Day is observed every year on the last Monday of May and is the one day a year we honor all of those who fought their last battle.

On Memorial Day we honor those who's dying breath stirs Old Glory, and who's memories and love we hold dear. God Bless them all.

And yes, that's just the way I see it! 
Tom Correa