Memorial Day

“Greater love has no one than this, 
that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus
Some people think Memorial Day is a time to recognize those who have served in the American military. It’s not. That’s Veterans’ Day. If you want to thank someone for their service on Memorial Day you should be standing in a graveyard.

The 307th Infantry, on their way to war, from the collection of the Imperial War Museums

There is a graveyard of sorts in the heart of Central Park: the 307th Infantry Memorial Grove. Just to the east of the middle of the park, around 70th Street, a grove trees were planted and monuments and plaques installed to commemorate the sacrifice of the men of the 307th. Here is one of their stories, in the words of Julius Klausner, Jr., one who survived:
Captain Blanton Barrett

The intent was to surprise the enemy with a daylight raid and thereby obtain information thru capture and observation. But either thru knowledge or by chance, the Germans had prepared against this maneuver and the surprise was reversed.

Waiting until our patrol was fairly within their lines, and then partially surrounding them, the enemy centered upon our men a deadly fire of rifles, machine guns, and grenades. The raiders fought valiantly in return but were outnumbered four to one. After an hour’s fighting, seventeen of our party, including Captain Barrett, lay dead, and sixteen were captured. Of the twenty-one who returned, thirteen were wounded. We were informed by two German prisoners captured a few days later that seventeen Germans had been killed.

Many of the regiment’s men were from New York City and their return home after the war was triumphant:


The Company moved on May 5th to the armory of the 22d New York Engineers in New York City to await final orders for the parade of welcome arranged by New York City.

We formed for the parade near Washington Square at 8:00
A.M. next morning and at 10:00 A.M. we marched out to Fifth Avenue and swept up that thorofare to the acclaim of a million throats. No greeting could have been more sincere, no welcome more impressive, and this, our last hike as Company B, was a march of glory.

 

The last hike, up Fifth Avenue

Any person who gives their life for something bigger than themselves – especially when given for the society we’re living in – deserves more than our respect. They deserve an examination from each of us, to see if there is something – anything – we can do to make their sacrifice worth it, to give the people who come after them a better, fairer, and freer society in tribute to them.

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