(10th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)
Alan Lowcher, Esq. concentrates on real estate and land use law, speaks on the life of Abraham Lincoln, presents history-themed “lessons for lawyers” through the NJ Bar Association, and is a member of several associations promoting a deeper understanding of American history.
Like Gadfly, Vietnam could be considered “my war” except that my draft number was high enough, the war was winding down, and I was entering my first year of college: there was little chance of being called to serve. I cannot put myself in the shoes of a combat soldier in the field — who among us really can do that unless we’ve “been there” — and we are left to reading about the “war” in books or, if we are lucky, talking to veterans who are willing to talk and share their stories.
I am a student of history — US history in general and military history specifically — and have been privileged beyond words to speak with
- the grandson of Charles F. Hopkins, Medal of Honor recipient from my home town (Corporal Hopkins rescued a comrade under heavy fire during the battle of Gaines Mill, 1862, and, although twice wounded in the act, carried his fellow soldier to safety), who learned of his grandfather’s service from the old soldier himself;
- Frank W. Buckles, the last surviving (now deceased) American soldier who served overseas in WWI;
- Harold A. Miller, Capt. U.S. Army (now deceased), “Battle of the Bulge” combatant commanding an anti-aircraft “flying battery” and, most importantly, the father of my wife;
- and my father, Robert Lowcher, Petty Officer, Second Class, US Navy (now deceased), who joined the Navy in 1949, who first considered underwater demolition, but when he told his mother about it, she cried so much that he joined the “silent service” instead (his mother cried even harder).
We can only imagine the strength of character, bravery, and moral resolve that these men — and so many men and women who wore the uniform and still wear the uniform — demonstrated. Let us now not glorify war (Captain Miller’s descriptions of what he experienced in WWII would dispel any illusion of the glory of war), but let us remember those who set their private lives aside to answer the call of duty.
One thought on ““Let us remember those who set their private lives aside to answer the call of duty” (10)”
At today’s Memorial Day Service I met 94 year old Henry “Hank” Kudzik. Hank was a submariner who served on the Gar and Nautilus. He fought at the Battle of Midway. What an honor for me as my late father also served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater of World War II. My dad, who was a Machinist Mate 3rd Class, operated the tail gun on a PB4Y2 patrol bomber and he would have been 95 in August. That’s right around Hank’s age. According to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, as of September 2018 only 496,777 World War II veterans were alive at that point in time, many fewer today, I’m sure. A total of 16,112,566 Americans served in our armed forces in that War. About 415,000 died, many still MIA. My father told me enough so that I would know what war was like. He witnessed Okinawan civilians being driven at bayonet point to jump off of cliffs and commit suicide. There was nothing he could do from his vantage point in the sky. He was on Tinian when the Enola Gay took off on its historic mission, and related that they knew something was up because one plane, a B-29, sat on the tarmac by itself and was surrounded by barbed wire and many MPs. He told me that when they saw the first recon shots and film from Hiroshima nobody could believe that one weapon had done that much damage. He also related how swift justice could be meted out on other American servicemen when they stole from their own, and how someone caught trying to poison the water supply on a Pacific Island was handled.
War is hell. It’s vicious, unyielding, devastating and traumatic. You’d think humanity would have learned from World War II. We haven’t.