Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering America’s “Son Of Fire”

Fallujah Iraq Dec 8 2004 1 300x214 Remembering Americas Son of Fire

Let us never forget those who gave their life for our freedoms.

Remembering the brave men and women who gave their “last full measure of devotion” for our freedoms, requires us to take a moment on this Memorial Day to focus on the individuals behind the numbers and remember they are not just names on a wall.

One of those individuals who gave everything he had for us was Marine Captain John J. McKenna IV who was killed on August 16, 2006 during an operation in Fallujah Iraq.
The story of John McKenna’s life and death is the story of a genuine American hero. Having had the great honor of spending a day with John J. McKenna III, the Captain’s father, I learned the story of how the McKenna family got the awful news of his death. It was a reminder that the heroes who step forward to defend us, come from America’s greatest asset: our families.

Captain McKenna lost his life trying to comfort one of his men Lance Corporal Michael Glover. They were conducting an operation near Fallujah Iraq when Glover, who was the point man, was shot by a sniper. True to his nature as a great leader, McKenna wouldn’t order anyone else to go out to help Glover; he went himself. Witnesses say John had Michael Glover cradled in his lap when he too was shot and killed by the same sniper.

A few days after Captain McKenna’s death, John III was in the family’s old home in Brooklyn. They had recently sold it and he was taking one last look at the place where he and his wife Karen had raised their son and daughter Allyson.

He was in Brooklyn for a final dental appointment and stopped at the house to make sure it was in order for the new owners. When the bell rang he thought it was neighbors coming by to wish him and his family well in their new home 175 miles away in upstate New York.

When he opened the door there was no need for words. He saw two Marine officers. He knew why they were there. When the Marine officers heard Captain McKenna was a New York State Trooper on active duty as a reservist, they made arrangements to have the Troopers join in helping the McKenna family.

Soon a procession of government vehicles was taking John McKenna III back upstate to be with his wife and daughter. What happened when the motorcade turned onto his new street is one of those things that make us proud to be Americans.

He recalled that even though they had moved into their new home just nine days before, every neighbor on his street was outside on the roadway with burning candles quietly paying tribute to the fallen Captain McKenna and his family.

John McKenna IV “Son of Fire”

The name McKenna can be translated from the ancient Irish language to mean “Son of Fire.” The countenance of John J. McKenna IV was a perfect fit to this meaning. John had piercing green eyes and fiery red hair. He was the hard charger he looked like.

He was a brilliant student who was sent to Europe on an international fellowship. He was a tough New York State Trooper, an Eagle Scout and a credit to his country his family, the Marine Corps and all freedom loving Americans.

We were honored to have had Captain John J. McKenna IV among us even for the thirty short years of his life. Where we get such patriots is no mystery. They come from fine families like the one fashioned by John and Karen McKenna. May God bless them today and always.

Some special photos on this Memorial further words needed

  • Not yet men but no longer boys
    The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy.  Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country.  He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's, but he has never collected unemployment either.

    He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.  He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer.

    He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.  He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark.  He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

    He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.

    He can march until he is told to stop, or stop until he is told to march.

    He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient.

    He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.

    He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle.  He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.

    If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food.  He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

    He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands. 
    He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job.

    He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay, and still find ironic humor in it all.

    He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.

    He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.

    He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to' square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

    Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

    He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.

    Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.
    And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so.

    As you go to bed tonight, remember this shot. . ..

    A short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.

    Pray for our military....

    'Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us.
    Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen.'

    Stop for a moment on this Memorial Day to say a prayer for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and please also say a prayer for peace so our brave men and women in uniform don't have to know the horrors of war any more.

    By Mark A. Wright, HMC(SS)22 June, 2000

    I first saw him on a park benchI 've seen him every day
    Sitting in a shady grove
    Where my children come to play
    Sometimes he feeds the birds and squirrels
    Or whittles little toys
    Sometimes he just sits and smiles
    At the laughing girls and boys
    And I never paid him any mind
    'Till one day just this year I noticed that he wore a frown
    And on his cheek ... a tear.

    Well I asked him why he seemed so down

    He looked up, began to say
    I lost half my friends 60 years ago today
    He told me of the terror
    As he fought to reach dry land
    By the time the beachhead was secure
    Half his friends lay in the sand

    That was just in one long day

    He fought on for 4 years more
    And the 60 years from then to now
    Have not dimmed
    His sights of war

    He said they have reunions

    Just to keep in touch and share
    And for each comrade who has gone on
    They leave an empty chair

    Well, His park bench has been empty now

    About 6 months or so
    And if I'd never took the time
    Then I never would've known
    That sitting on that simple bench
    With bread crumbs and little toys
    Was a man who gave his all
    To guarantee my daily joys

    So give thanks to all the men and women

    Who're still here or have gone before
    And made the highest sacrifice
    In both Peace time and in War
    Because they bought our freedom
    Paid their own blood, sweat, and tears
    Then endured the heartache of those empty chairs
    For all these years

    So please do not ignore them

    Or speed by without a care
    'Cause you never know
    When you might pass by
    A hero, unaware

    Note by the poet: "The old man in this story is an amalgam of my grandfather who used to sit in a chair behind his house and tell me stories of WWI after I came in from the fields at the end of the day. He was mustard-gassed there, fighting with modern weapons, but using mules. Of Noris Tanton, of Commerce Texas, who barely made it off the ship with his life at Pearl December 7th, 1941. And all the other WWII survivors I have talked to throughout the years. My father-in-law, James Rowse of Wolfe City Texas, who, even though he fought in Korea, graciously considers me a Comrade in Arms because of my Naval Submarine service over the last 18 years. Lowell Clemens, Jim Sullivan, and all the other Viet Nam Vets who I have had the privilege of knowing and serving with. And lastly, all the people like Barry Shay, Thomas Galliher, Mark Heithaus, Patrick Rourk, Marv Mumblo, Chip Green, Chip Sumner, Tony Zilar and the list goes on, that I have served with on Submarines and Surface Ships, with the Marines, in clinics, Hospitals and school for all these years of turbulent peace.
    My heroes Unaware." -- Mark A. Wright, HMC(SS)
A special tribute on this Memorial Day 
By: Diane Sori

Today is Memorial Day, a special day when we honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe and free at home.

Today is not a day for politics, for campaigning, for bloviating is a day for remembering those we’ve lost in times of war, whose memories we will always hold dear.

My tribute today is different than most, both in words and in pictures chosen, but I felt it right to say my thank you this way.  Please don’t just look at the pictures but read the words that accompany each one for I think you will understand what I am trying to say.

Click on the link and it will take you directly to my ‘In Honor of True Heroes.’  They are now safe in God’s embrace but forever in our hearts.

May God Bless America today...tomorrow...and always... And May God keep those safe who currently serve.