I hope you all had a great Memorial Day, and took at least a moment to think about the combat dead that have fallen in defense of our nation. Some would say it started with Crispus Attucks at the Boston Massacre (although he was at best an irregular) but it is still going on today. Every month, every week, almost every day, American troops are dying in combat in Afghanistan.
I find that fact slipping from my mind as my car’s air conditioning loses the battle on my commute around the beltway, or I try to deal with an issue at work, or celebrate a family member’s achievement. We all have problems and issues, many of which seem all-consuming, but none of us has to live with the problems of the Marines of 3rd Batallion, 2nd Marines. These Marines (and their combat dogs) are in real combat, nearly every day; losing their lives or their friends.
Lcpl Clore and Duke
This weekend, Lcpl Peter Clore (a 3/2 Marine) and his war dog, Duke, went out on patrol. Lcpl Clore died in a firefight on Saturday. Throughout the fight, Duke stayed by his side, protecting his Marine. If you get a chance, please send a letter of condolence:
SSgt Beatty, Martin
3/2 HQ SVC Company IDD
FPO AE 09510-3130
I have another request for you, and for this you don’t have to send a letter or anything like that. I’d like to share my personal Memorial Day remembrance with you. It has a unique personal attachment to me, and to someone who came out and supported me on the Mother Seton March. I’ll get to it down below.
Yesterday, we went to mass at St John’s Church in Westminster, with plans to attend Westminster’s Memorial Day parade. Mary suggested I get up early and hike there for some training. It’s about 8 miles, so I left two and a half hours before mass and made it with 15 minutes to spare. Along the way, I caught up to a poor guy out biking who had a popped inner tube. He elected to push it back, and I had the pleasure of his company. So to you, Bob, thanks for the company yesterday. It was a real pleasure meeting another Jersey boy.
After Bob turned off towards home, I was left to my thoughts, and they brought me to the meaning of the day. I used to get kind of cranky when people would take pains to thank me or other vets on Memorial Day; this day wasn’t for us, it was for the folks who didn’t make it back. Then, as usual, Mary helped me by telling me that’s how people were expressing their patriotic feelings. We living vets have become avatars of a sort on Memorial Day, and that’s nothing to be cranky about, but something to be proud of.
Yesterday as I finished miles 7 and 8 I thought about my last big hike, and my friend Kris Kurcoba. He fought beltway traffic just to meet me on the road and show his support. Just weeks before, I had read this book
about a key battle during the Chosin Reservoir breakout in the Korean War. It is an amazing story, even if you aren’t a Marine. The book features the stand of Fox Company, 2/7, at Toktong pass. This small group of Marines held a key hill for days, fighting off most of the 59th Division of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army.
The Marines at Chosin sent an ad hoc batallion (mostly 1st Batallion 7th Marines) down to relieve them, including B Company, 1/7. B Company was
Joe and his brothers
led by 1st Lt Joe Kurcaba, the great-uncle of my friend Kris. Lt Kurcaba led his company as part of these “Ridgerunners”. This was an overnight, off-road forced march through enemy lines, waist deep snow, and in -20 to -40 degrees Farenheit temps. At the end of this impossible hike, the Marines took the enemy positions around Toktong in a headlong charge led by Kurcaba (among others), relieving Fox Company on December 2nd.
Less than a week later, on December 8th, my friend’s great-uncle was riddled with bullets from an enemy machine gun while leading his company out of the mountains of North Korea. Here is a link to his Navy Cross citation
He’s the one I thought about as I finished those last two miles to church. Every step I take hurts, whether it’s on a training hike or in the office. I broke some bones in my foot while I was on active duty and just sucked it up instead of going to sick bay with all the slackers. They apparently healed funny so now every other step I am reminded to go to the doctor when I’m sick or injured.
I’m also reminded of the sacrifice those other Marines made; Marines like Joe Kurcaba and Peter Clore, and how absolutely piddling a little twinge in the foot or ringing in the ears (my other gift from the Marines) is by comparison. It’s Marines like them and the Sentinels of Freed0m
that get me through to the end of every hike.
Please take a moment now and think about the sacrifice of Joe Kurcaba. Don’t wait until next Memorial Day. Every day, we’re adding to the roll of fallen Americans, and regardless of your thoughts about the wars, the combat dead AND the severely wounded deserve your respect.
RIP Great Uncle Joe