I, and I'm sure you are with me on this, hate war. There are those who cause it, debate it, declare it, and struggle with making sure we are as a nation are in just wars. But the fact is, it is the heroes of the Armed services who have to fight it. They ultimately pay the price for our freedom as a nation.
As an American citizen I have my personal opinion about the wars we fight and whether they are being fought for the right reasons or not and even whether they are being fought in the right way. But those who are responsible for doing the fighting are to be appreciated and honored, in my humble opinion, by all of us who stay behind and argue the justice or the rightness of war.
I want to use one such warrior as a point of reference for this particular Memorial Day. I do not know him, nor do I know the older veteran who embraced him that day in Dallas when this picture was taken, but it is now one of my favorite pictures of all time.
Marine Staff Sargent Mark Graunke Jr. was a member of an EOD team [ Explosive Ordinance Disposal] in the summer of 2003 in Karbala. He, another Marine, and an Iraqi EOD team member were piling up some mines for disposal. It was later recorded that as the EOD team was prepping the pile one of the mines detonated. It killed the Iraqi and the other Marine and severely wounded Staff sargent Graunke. He lost a hand, a leg and an eye. Graunke later said after arriving to a hero's welcome at home, “Although my Marine Corps career as an EOD technician is over, I am ready and willing to confront the challenges that civilian life has to offer. We say in the Marine Corps, ‘Improvise, Adapt and Overcome,’ and that is what I will do."
As I said, this picture is one of my very favorites. The older man is Houston James, a Pearl Harbor Survivor from Dallas, who spontaneously embraced Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke Jr. during a past Veterans Day commemoration in Dallas. This picture was taken by the Dallas Morning News and shows the span of time and conflicts that as a Nation we have had to endure. These two men, and those who DID NOT come home, show us freedom is not free. It has a price someone pays. Let's remember them on this Memorial Day 2011.