Posts Tagged ‘Arlington Cemetery’

Like many other Americans, I turned on the TV this past Saturday and watched–with fascination and sorrow–as the Kennedy family journeyed to Arlington Cemetery to bury another esteemed member of their clan–Ted Kennedy, the beloved senator from Massachusetts.

Watching the ceremony brought back memories of my own visits to Arlington, the beautiful and sacred grounds where at least seven members of my family are buried, including my parents and maternal grandparents.

The following excerpts from my book, A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham, describe a visit I made to Arlington many years ago with my father:

       I will never forget the summer day a few years after my mother’s death in 1963 when my father and I visited her gravesite. While we were walking down one of the many pathways, he pointed out the names of a few of his friends, whose names were neatly carved in the granite stones. These men were members of his generation and, like him, had served in the army during World War II. A few were West Point classmates of his, joined by wives who either predeceased them or died after they did. Those men had always seen him as a leader. When they were cadets, Howard Peckham was selected as first captain of his class, the highest rank in the cadet chain of command. The title gave him the privilege of speaking to the administration on their behalf and directing their training.

There was a matter-of-fact tone in my father’s voice as he spoke their names—nothing forlorn. He was well aware of his own mortality and knew that one day, maybe not too far in the future, he would be laid to rest on those same hallowed grounds. Although Howard Peckham was a realist in regard to his inevitable demise, he was also optimistic. Ever since his boyhood years, he maintained a strong religious faith and a belief in an afterlife. He was convinced that he would one day see his deceased family members and good friends again.

           Howard Peckham and his army compatriots would see each other at different places over the years and during changing circumstances. They would meet during catastrophic wartimes that shook America like ponderous earthquakes—World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. During those dark days, my father and his army friends resembled ships that pass each other in the bleak nighttime of world conflict. All of those wars affected them in one way or another, especially those men who came through World War II unscathed but who lost sons in the fighting in Korea or Vietnam.

When the storm clouds of war finally drifted away, and tranquility again temporarily hovered over our land, the men resembled travelers who greet each other during the bright daylight of peace. Those are the days they especially treasured.

       Ever since the end of the Vietnam War, which is the last major conflict discussed in A Salute to Patriotism, the drumbeat of United States Army history has continued to move steadily forward, and other soldiers have answered the call to duty and country in faraway, dangerous lands.

In 2008, as I complete my writing of this book, American young people are stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, helping to keep us free.  A Salute to Patriotism is dedicated to them.

Note: A Salute to Patriotism is available on Amazon. com. Click this link to look inside the book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/


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Excerpts from Chapter 8, “Freedom Is Not Free,” of A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham:

My parents made a plan that seemed workable. My father would leave in May for Europe, as scheduled. In July, Mother would give Howie a big sendoff to West Point, which he would enter as a freshman. I would finish my sophomore year of high school at the end of December. “Jeanie and I can spend Christmas with Howie at West Point,” Mother told Dad, “and then join you early in the new year.” My brother’s lowly plebe (freshman) status required that he and the other members of his class not leave the Academy for the holidays.

Howie had been overjoyed when he first received news of his West Point appointment, and my father was delighted that his son would be attending his alma mater and following in his footsteps.

Mother, however, had mixed feelings about it. The World War II photographs and newsreels that showed young officers leading their men on the battlefields of Europe and Asia, where they risked and often lost their lives, were still too fresh in her mind. My mother’s fears for her son, who would be commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation, were intensified when she received my father’s first long letter to us, which came in the mail soon after his arrival in France. More than ever before, she thought about all the mothers who had lost their sons during wartime. After Memorial Day had passed, which of course had been solemnly observed in our area at Arlington National Cemetery, my father wrote us details about the Memorial Day ceremony in which he had participated at Hamm Cemetery, located in the wooded hills three miles east of the city of Luxembourg.

My father was in charge of this ceremony and others like it all over Europe that day, so he was gratified that everything had gone so smoothly.

He was even more pleased that the people of Luxembourg had shown their gratitude to the U.S. Army for liberating them from the Nazis, evidenced by the presence of a large crowd and the many bouquets of beautiful flowers placed at the gravesites.  To provide us with more details, my father also sent us a phonograph record containing his radio address to the United States from Luxembourg on that Memorial Day, which was broadcasted after the ceremony. Although his address was intended for all Americans, it was particularly aimed towards those citizens whose loved ones had died in the European Theater. After being introduced by Henry Cassidy, a commentator with NBC, my father spoke in a clear, strong voice.

My book, A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham, contains the text of his entire speech as well as the one given by Grand Duchess Charlotte, whose speech followed his. At the conclusion of her speech, Mr. Cassidy said: “Americans at home are now being consulted as to whether the bodies will be left here or returned to America. If they are to go home, General Peckham’s command will take them in full dignity. If they remain here, the people of the Grand Duchess will be honored to watch over them. Either way, those of us who observed today’s ceremony are sure they are in good hands. This is Henry Cassidy in Luxembourg.”

      An announcer then closed the broadcast by saying:  “NBC has presented Memorial Day Overseas, with Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, Brigadier General Howard Peckham, Henry Cassidy, and Paul Archinard of NBC’s overseas staff. This is NBC, the National Broadcasting Company.”

A Salute to Patriotism is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/ 

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