Today’s Memorial Day Tribute comes from our dear friend Captain George Harris.  He was kind enough to write the Memorial Day  thread for today as a special favor for Elena and me.   I know it was not an easy task.   I would like our readers to know a bit about George before you read his tribute:

Captain George S. Harris, U.S. Navy (Retired) served in the Navy from August 1951 to July 1990.  He rose from Seaman Recruit to the rank of Captain.  During his career he served as a Senior Company Corpsman in a Marine rifle company in Korea, and several tours as a medical company commander in the First and Third Marine Corps Medical Battalions.  As the commanding officer of B Company, First Medical Battalion, he served in Vietnam in 1966-67.  Unlike many officers in his field he had “hands on” experience in treating wounded Marines in Vietnam.

 His military decorations include Legion of Merit with Two Gold Stars, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Meritorious Unit Citation, Navy Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Korean Service Medal with Marine Corps Device, Vietnam Service Medal with Two Bronze Stars and Marine Corps Device, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Navy Expert Pistol Ribbon. 



 Here are my thoughts this Memorial Day–  

Memorial Day is here once again.  It is not to be confused with Veterans’ Day, which used to be called Armistice Day but few remember what happened at the “eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. 1918” when the armistice was signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany in a railroad car in France and all was quiet on the Western Front. 

 Memorial Day  is when we, as a Nation, are supposed to stop and remember all those brave men and women who gave the last full measure, laying down their life for their countrymen.  At our National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia the sixty-year old ceremony known as “Flags In” was completed a few days ago when more than 350,000 small American flags were carefully placed one foot in front of each tombstone and on “The Day” a wreath will be placed in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns.  People will gather in cemeteries around the nation to honor our military dead. 

 Just who is it exactly that we’re remembering?  From our very beginning at the Battle of Concord when citizen soldiers stood,

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled;

Here once the embattled farmers stood;

And fired the shot heard round the world.”   

                                                                    Concord Hymn

                                                                    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1837)


until today, almost 42 million Americans have answered our Nation’s call to arms.  Some 1.2 million have been killed or died in the service of their country and another 1.4 million have been woundedIn our most recent actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 5,300 have been killed and nearly 37,000 have suffered what are now known as life altering injuries.  You know who they are—they’re the ones with missing arms, legs, eyes and assorted chunks of flesh and those whose minds that have been forever stained with the memories of war. 

 In Vietnam, I held young men and watched as the light left their eyes and my strongest memory of that terrible time is still the smell of blood.  I have stood by that “rude bridge” in Concord and if you listen very closely you can hear the sound of musketry and the cries of the wounded and dying.  I have walked through Arlington National Cemetery where some 30 funerals a day take place.  I am always awed at the sight of all those gravestones lined up so precisely.  I have attended the funerals of many friends there and listened to the beat of the muffled drums and the clip-clop of the horses drawing the caisson. 

 Not all died a “hero’s death” on the battlefield. Some, like me, served their nation and long after the smoke of battle has cleared they join that band brothers lying beneath gravestones scattered around the world.  One last crackle of rifle fire and the mournful sound of Taps echoes across the land as they are laid to rest. 

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh

33 Thoughts to “Memorial Day Tribute From Captain George S. Harris, U. S. Navy (Retired)”

  1. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, George.

    Did anyone see the American Airlines commercials over the weekend? They put those wearing the uniform first. Very moving commercials. Each one I saw brought tears to my eyes.

  2. Wolverine

    Company B, First Medical Battalion. Chu Lai and Da Nang. Looks like George and I were in Vietnam at the same time and even trod the same ground. Small world indeed.

  3. Do either of you remember a Marine Captain named Michael Walker, helo pilot? Probably not, but weirder things have happened? Maybe he was a Lt. at the time….Not sure.

  4. Wolverine

    Can’t recall the name, Cargo. It’s been a long time now — 43 years.

  5. George S. Harris

    Name does not ring a bell.

  6. George S. Harris

    Where were you? What unit?

  7. George S. Harris

    Thanks to all the veteran’s who read and scribble here. Thanks to MH and Elena for putting my thoughts up. I hope that there weill come a time when we don’t have to ask our young men and women to go to war.

  8. Capt. Harris, I am wordless.

    Thank you.

    Wolverine, Cargo and others on this site, thank you for your service.

  9. Prior to this day, I have never considered the history of Memorial Day which I was surprised to learn has its roots in the Civil War. Thank you, Oklahoma Sun for pointing me in the right direction.

  10. Elena

    I love how people here, regardless of differing opinions, can reach out to one another, to remind us, in the end, we are ALL Americans. I am warmed by the dialogue between wolverine, cargo, and George. They share a common bond, one that should not ever be seperated because of differing views.

    thank you, George, Cargo, Wolverine, and all the other brave men and women who have chosen to serve in the most honorable profession there is, United States Military.

  11. Lafayette

    George, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this holiday and you service to our great nations. Cargo & Wolverine, I thank you both for your service as well. Without the brave men and women that have VOLUNTEEERED to serve throughout our history we would not enjoy the many freedoms we do in the good ole U. S. of A.

  12. Lots of folks were drafted. They deserve no less credit and certainly paid an important part in defending our freedoms.

  13. chuckwilly

    so what are moonhowlings people gonna do today? take a shit on every veterans grave? you people are sick pieces of garbage..

    [Editor’s note: Well, well, well, Look whose back–chicko, Josh, James, Elvis, and all the other names he uses to come insult the people at Moonhowlings with vile language and racial slurs directed at blacks, Elena, Hispanics, etc. I have linked the IP address he leaves to several old emails. Perhaps he needs those turned in to his commanding officer? ]

  14. Lafayette

    True enough, Moon. Those drafted slipped my mind. Thank you for the friendly reminder.

  15. Its a generational thing, Lafayette, The draft was gone by the time you started thinking about it. Well, gone unless it is needed, I should have said. I hope I sounded friendly.

    I know all sorts of people who ended up in Korea and Nam who would have preferred to have not gone there.

    Probably my dad would have preferred to not go into WWII also. He enlisted from Virginia but only because he was due to get drafted from NJ. I guess no one told NJ that he had become a Virginia gentleman, all legally adopted and everything. My mother worked for the Dept. of the Army as a civilian. She went to her boss who pulled strings so he could enlist. Apparently you got a better deal if you enlisted on your own. He went in 12/7/42–a year to the day after Pearl Harbor. Maybe someone on here can fill in the blanks I have on this issue. He was also able to go to OCS because he enlisted.

  16. The comments above are typical of the trash we have thrown at us by this individual. There are literally hundreds of comments that have been left here.

    Maybe some of the vets here can shame him.

  17. @Lafayette
    Those that were drafted, also served honorably. Remember, the all volunteer military is a new thing. Well, except for the first one during the Revolution.

    Oh, and Moon, if you have Chuckies info, slam him.

  18. He has issues and apparently can’t read. There is nothing but reverence here for our Vets.@Moon-howler

  19. @Moon-howler
    Yes, those who were drafted were very important and provided the military with a far better demographic than we see with the all volunteer force. But regardless, all who serve or have served signed a blank check payable to the citizens of this nation–the amount to be paid–up to an including the last full measure.

    Thank you all for what you do.

    I don’t know who chuckwilly is, but his/her comments are absolutely shameful–apparently Cargo feels the same.

  20. Poor Richard

    “He who looks with pride upon his history which his
    fathers have written by their heroic deeds, who accepts
    with gratitude the inheritance which they have
    bequeathed to him, and who highly resolves to preserve
    this inheritance unimpaired and to pass it on to his
    descendants enlarged and enriched, is a true American.

    Rev. Lyman Abbott

  21. kelly3406

    Thank you for your poignant words, George. It amazes me how similar the experiences and stories are for veterans that served at different times. Our careers barely overlapped, as my service began in the mid-1980s. I am still listed as a volunteer for deployment. I thank all veterans for their service, but particularly those who were wounded or killed in action. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

  22. Rez

    Well, I am jumping out of the woodwork for an infrequent post. I thought people would appreciate the link below as it touches on some very poignant history of a very humble former marine who believed in political civility of all things. Will we ever get back to that approach again?

    George, you have given us outstanding and sincere words.

  23. Emma

    George, I am speechless.

    Moon, thank you for the weekend-long treat.

  24. Wolverine

    George — On a WWII vintage LST in the Brown Water Navy. If you ever had a beer or put a bullet in your sidearm at Chu Lai, we may have brought it to you — among the first of the LSTs to slip over the coral at the mouth of the Truong River and beach at that temporary ramp at Cus Ho. Never saw the skipper so nervous as we slipped through that 16-foot channel they dredged through the sand and coral on the Truong in 1966. One mistake and our hull might have been shredded. (This was before they built the large LST landing zone at Chu Lai.) Once we got through that channel, it was like paddling a 328 foot canoe up a creek to the temporary landing. Still am surprised that we weren’t ambushed out there. Loads of ammo and bombs would have sent us all to Davey Jone’s Locker. Also had to hope that the weather was good. When we went into the Truong, we always passed our sister ship, LST-912, or what was left of her on the beach. Often bad seas out there at the entrance to the Truong, especially when they caused you to anchor before the weather calmed down enough to make a run for the river mouth. Eighteen foot waves tore loose her anchors and sent her up on the rocks and coral, eventually ripped her apart. We had to pass that broken “ghost” every time we came to your location. You could have heard a pin drop on our bridge as we passed her remains. Imagine you may remember that “ghost” on the beach if you were there in 1966-1967.

    If I am recalling correctly, at some point in 1967, the Marines, except for an air wing, moved to Danang, replaced by U.S. Army Americal Division units. Is that when you moved to Danang? Incidentally, George, do you remember the “Chu Lai two-step”? (For the rest of you, this was an inside joke. If you ate at the officers’ mess in Chu Lai, they said you would be very wise never to get more than two steps away from the nearest toilet.)

    Apart from Chu Lai, we went into Danang off and on — but who didn’t? Also spent a lot of time mothershipping Swift Boat ops on the Mekong Delta out of Vung Tau. A big part of our in-country time was spent up at Cua Viet on the DMZ trying to resupply the Marine base at Dong Ha. We were there when the NVA began trying to dislodge the Marines from Khe San. What a show that was. Constant chopper and aircraft in the skies. The cruisers of the 7th Fleet aiming their big guns at Khe San. I didn’t “smell the blood” as you did, George; but I was on a patrol boat looking for NVA sappers and frogmen and I can recall hearing on the tac radios the tears and anguish of the calls between Khe San and the hospital ship — the “Repose”, I think it was. That I will not forget — ever. That ship wound up with 10 battle stars in Vietnam and a combat action ribbon in mid-1967. Not too bad for an old lady of the sea whose first action was at the invasion of Okinawa in 1945.

    Mrs. W says that there is a good probability that many of the wounded who arrived at her stateside hospital were patched up first by you guys. She says the people in the field did a remarkable job in allowing her “boys” to come home for further care and healing. Without the efforts of yourself and others like you, Mrs. W says she wouldn’t have had nearly as many “customers” for her TLC. You may have smelled a lot of blood, but you also saved a lot of young lives. Thanks, George.

  25. Wolverine

    So, what to do about “chuckwilly.” Hmmm, I know. On that river at Cua Viet, the North Vietnamese sappers used to try everything they could think of to damage the ships and boats of the US Navy. One of them actually swam down the river and placed a mine on the hull of an LST. That mine blew the LST’s engine room apart. They also were near-geniuses at devisiing bombs which could float down the current into the ships. Unbelievable stuff they concocted. We replaced the LST which had been crippled by the mine. We were a very nervous and wary bunch of sailors. Every floating object, every set of bubbles in the water was a bomb or a frogman.

    One day on the river, I noticed a cardboard box floating on the current. It was bobbing and floating right down on the ship. I told my machine gunner to sink it. He did so with a long and accurate burst of his .30 calibre. The box gurgled and sank. It was apparently empty and not a bomb. Now, perhaps in future I can refer to that empty box as a “chuckwilly” and the Moonhowler as a “machine gunner.” Ya think?

  26. Was Mrs. W ever in Vietnam or did I misunderstand something?

    Emma, it was my pleasure.

    You all should go over to UVC (Cargo’s blog) and check out the nice job he did with commemorating Memorial Day. They even let ME over there, knowing I am not…errr…conservative.

  27. Wolverine

    #24 should have read; “Our ship wound up with ten battle stars….” Don’t know about the “Repose.”

  28. I like your thinking, Wolverine!!

    Apparently the wrong people had too much time on their hands. We got lots of ‘mail’ this weekend that I just don’t let though. Everyone has now seen an example. That is one of the milder ones. And yet we are accused of censorship. 🙄 At least we know who this one is.

  29. Wolverine

    No, Mrs. W was at a Navy hospital in the States which received the medevacs from Vietnam. That included me. Actually, I and the Navy had a fight over her. I wanted to marry her, and the Navy wanted to send her to Japan, which would probably have been an intermediary post between the U.S. and Vietnam. I won by convincing her that she would be better off taking care of just one sailor than providing medical assistance to a whole fleet and the U.S. Marine Corps to boot. And, despite the lost assignment to Japan, I myself would show her the world. Later, I fulfilled that promise by taking her to Africa. She has never let me forget that — from the first night we arrived in Africa. Nah, just joshing. She loved Africa………….I think.

  30. It sounds like you did one hell of a sales job, Wolverine.

  31. Wolverine

    I checked out Cargo’s blog. Top notch Memorial Day job there as well. The first video got me. I am a diehard lover of the pipes. Got a chuckle about Moon telling somebody named Elena to stuff it. I see the Moon came back quickly to assure everyone that it was not OUR Elena to whom she was referring.

  32. George S. Harris

    Good morning W–Oh yest, I remember the LST-912. When I first got to Chu Lai everything was in tents and then the SeaBees came and put up SE Asia huts. I got a them to come build sidewalks from the ends of concrete runs–cost me a few whiskeys but well worth it. I had a friend who was the CO of 1st Hospital Company–sat near the ChuLai LST ramp for most of his tour there without ever seeing a patient. When they arrived in Vietnam, he went up to the divison headquarters to check in and they didn’t even know he was coming so they didn’t have a place for him to set up. We lucked out since we got to use most of his physicians and corpsmen. They eventually put up a great facility up the road near the division headquarters. When they opened, my friend threw a mess night–complete with cigars and port after dinner. I don’t know where he got the stuff but we had huge steaks to order and all trimmings. Toasted everyone in the world.

    The Repose used to come circle several miles off shore–we could see here–and we would fly casualties out to the ship. I went out a couple times but when we went tothe mess, people shied away from us–maybe we didn’t smell too good or they were afraid we would rub something off on their starched whites and khakis. Never was comfortable there.

    Speaking of the O’club–my hut was just two doors away! And the head wasn’t too many steps away!

    I wish I could say I was glad I went to Vietnam and I suppose that I am, just not sure that is the right term. I got to do a lot of things that most guys in my line of work didn’t get to do because we had a good bunch of doctors who were willing to let yoy help and would take time to train you. But it left me with that “smell of blood” thing. I did an oral history for the Navy Medical Department and when my interview was done, the historian asked me, “What is the one thing you will always remember about Vietnam?” I told him, “The smell of blood.” I have seen similar comments by others–it never goes away. And I don’t know how you and Cargo feel, but I see so many similarities between these wars and Vietnam, but people say no. And most who say it weren’t there. One fellow said that it wasn’t the same since the people in Afghanistan like us. Well, a hell of a lot of folks liked us in Vietnam, too.

    Have a super day and thanks for bringing the beer and the bullets! Helluva party!

  33. Elena

    Aw shucks, “our Elena”, thank you for making me an “our” and not a “your” 🙂

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