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Archive for the ‘World War II’ Category

by John I. Pray, Jr., President & CEO, Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)

Memorial Day is a special day for America as we honor those who have died while serving our great nation. It is especially important for me, on a very personal level, because of my father. John I. Pray, my father, joined the Army in 1938 after completing the ROTC program and graduating from Ripon College in Wisconsin. After completing many months of training, he married the love of his life, my mother, LaVerne G. Wilson in June 1940, and the Army immediately sent the newlyweds to their first posting in the Philippines, arriving in September 1940. With tensions mounting in the Pacific and war looming on the horizon, the Army returned many family members, including my mother, back to safety of the “states” in February 1941.

John I. Pray, Sr, pictured here during training in the Philippines just prior to the start of World War 2.

War broke out on December 7, 1941 and after many months of intense fighting, the U.S. forces in the Philippines surrendered on April 9, 1942. Approximately 75,000 American and Filipino troops, who were already suffering from lack of food and disease, were captured and forced to make a 65-mile march to prison camps. This infamous journey became known as the Bataan Death March – my father was among those soldiers. Thousands perished along the way and an estimated 20,000 soldiers, who survived the march, died in the prison camps from disease, malnutrition, and brutal treatment. My father survived – for three and a half years – and was ultimately repatriated in September 1945.

When I asked my father what sustained him through the many challenges he faced as a prisoner of war, he unhesitatingly told me faith…faith in his family, his country, and his comrades.

My father continued to serve his nation until he retired in 1969.

Each Memorial Day, my father would honor those he served with that did not make it home. He would remember them – their dedication and their lasting contributions to protecting our way of life. Not surprisingly, Memorial Day became and has remained a reverent occasion for our family as we look to remember the very profound contributions of many generations of service men and women and the family members who serve alongside them.

Looking back, I clearly see how my parents’ service and sacrifice inspired me to serve and guided every one of my major career decisions. I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve in a variety of capacities – as a member of the U.S. Air Force and as a member of the Bush Administration at the White House and more recently, as a member of the Operation Homefront family where I have the incredible opportunity to continue to serve those that serve.

So as we spend an extended Memorial Day weekend with our families, I would ask that you take a moment during The National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. (your local time) and remember that more than 1.3 million military members have died while serving our great nation. It is an opportunity to honor those who gave up all their tomorrows for our todays.

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69 years ago today, LTG George S. Patton slapped a young private who had been hospitalized for psychoneurosis, and accused him of cowardice.

While visiting injured soldiers in Sicily, LTG Patton had been speaking to each of the visibly wounded men in the field hospital when he saw PVT Charles H.  Kuhl.  PVT Kuhl showed no outward wounds, and when asked what ailed him, his response, “It’s my nerves sir…I just can’t take it anymore” drew fury from the infamous General.  LTG Patton slapped him across the face with a pair of gloves and called him a coward.  As he exited the tent, LTG Patton heard PVT Kuhl crying, came back and struck him again, and ordered him out of the tent.

After a similar encounter a week later involving a different soldier, LTG Patton received a personal reprimand from General Dwight Eisenhower, and is widely thought to have lost command of the D-Day invasion as a consequence.

At one time, this attitude was common.  While the negative stigma associated with the invisible wounds of war still lingers today, the tide is changing.

Raymond Chandler, the Sergeant Major of the Army, openly admits to utilizing behavioral health resources at Ft. Bliss, Texas following a difficult deployment to Iraq.  He shows by example that recognizing your struggles and seeking help are acceptable, and even encouraged.

In his interview for SMA, General Casey asked if there was anything in his history that could embarrass the Army.  SMA Chandler shared his experience of seeking mental health counseling at Ft. Bliss. General Casey expressed that part of his history would not be considered a disqualifier, but an asset.

This changing attitude has been a long time coming. Many may not have received the recognition and help they needed, yet, but Operation Homefront applauds the efforts of the military to move towards education and acceptance of all wounds, both visible and invisible.

If you or someone you love is suffering, please encourage them to get help.  No one should have to fight these battles alone, or without the tools they need.

(Article by Rachel O’Hern, military spouse, a recent addition at Operation Homefront and all-around great gal!)

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by Allison Perkins

My son’s due date haunted me.

This was my first baby. A little boy. He was our joy. Then, we learned his due date.
The doctor excitedly told me it was Dec. 7.

I winced.

“That’s a heck of a birthday,” I said. The doctor was unfazed.

December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day,” I said.

“Oh yes, yes that,” he said. Without emotion. Without hesitation. Almost without recognition.

Roosevelt declared it to be a day which would live in infamy.

Just before 8 a.m., Dec. 7, 1941, 181 Japanese bombers and fighters launched an aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, home to the U.S. Pacific fleet. A second wave of firepower came nearly 30 minutes later.

When the smoke cleared, 2, 403 people were dead, 21 U.S. ships were sunk or damaged, 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed and another 159 were damaged.

As the doctor calculated my son’s possible birthday, then 61 years after the attacks, my heart dropped. How could we celebrate such a joyous occasion on such a horrific day?

Nine years later, our youngest daughter was born. When the doctor scheduled my induction, he announced that I should report to the hospital on Sept. 11.

Again, my heart sank. Again, there was no emotion, no hesitation in his voice. It was just another day.

But it wasn’t.

Another early morning attack. More Americans, 2,819 in all, dead.

It was a day, we all promised, we would never forget.

This week, America marks the 70th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. This unforgettable moment in time, seems somehow, forgotten.

The Pearl Harbor Survivors’ Association is now so few in numbers that the group will officially disband on Dec. 31. It is rare to find an elementary school or American town that pauses to mark the day when the U.S. officially entered the war in the Pacific.

The number of survivors who are able to visit community centers and retell their incredible stories of attack and survival has dwindled to a handful.

As they disappear, so it seems, does America’s willingness to fulfill our promise to never let their memory fade.

Please take a moment to pause this week to remember America’s veterans, of Pearl Harbor and fights throughout the years. Be thankful for their sacrifices. Be grateful for their service.

In the end, neither of our children’s birthdays landed on Dec. 7 or Sept. 11, despite the doctors’ predictions. But I don’t need a family milestone to remind me to pause and thank those who lost their lives those days.

I will never forget. Will you?

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