Today, on this 47th Memorial Day, we remember those who gave their lives in the fight for freedom. So I thought it was fitting to take a break from us and reflect on those that served our country in the military and, in so doing, sacrificed their lives for the greater good.
President Nixon designated Memorial Day as a federal holiday in 1971. But it was originally known as Decoration Day, established in 1868 by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic. He wanted to honor the 750,000 brave souls who gave their lives during the Civil War. Since that time our country lost over 116,500 fighting in World War I, over 405,000 in World War II, 36,000 in the Korean War, 58,220 in Viet Nam, and almost 7,000 since 2001. And before all that, 25,000 patriots lost their lives fighting in the Revolutionary War that led to the birth of our great nation, the United States of America.
I’d like to take a moment to put a few of the sacrifices into the context of our two families. May God bless these souls, for which we have some record of their service and sacrifice during war time:
Sgt. Gerald E. Duffie, United States Marine Corps. Sgt. Duffie was a radio gunner in the South Pacific during World War II. After two successful missions and commendations for his expert airmanship and courage in defeating the Japanese, his plane was shot down and he was killed February 10, 1944. He was twenty-four years old, first cousin and good friend to my late father, Robert Price. He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Sgt. Edward H. Bucceri, United States Army Air Corps. Sgt. Bucceri was a member of the 351st Bomb Group stationed at RAF Polebrook, England during World War II. Edward Bucceri was Bob’s uncle, and on the 70th anniversary of his death Bob wrote a beautiful and fitting tribute that recounts his uncle’s final mission that ended tragically in the North Sea just days before Christmas in 1943. It is on Bob’s blog, The Lobster Shift, and has been re-posted today at http://newsfrombobbucceri.blogspot.com/
Cpl. William E. Reynolds, Company I, Sixth New York Heavy Artillery, United States Army. From New Castle, Westchester County, Corporal Reynolds enlisted in 1862 at the age of twenty-nine. He was wounded on May 30, 1864 in Cold Harbor, Virginia. He died at the Judiciary Square Hospital in Washington, D.C. on July 6, 1864.
Pvt. George W. Reynolds, Company I, Seventeenth Connecticut Regiment Infantry, United States Army. Young George was mustered in on August 25, 1862 as a private. The regiment became part of the Eleventh Corps, stationed in Virginia. On May 2, 1863, shortly before six o’clock in the evening when many of the Union troops had stacked their arms, were preparing supper and relaxing at day’s end, General “Stonewall” Jackson and his 25,000 Confederate troops attacked the flank of the Eleventh Corps. Pvt. Reynolds was severely wounded during the fight and died on May 28, 1863, the only man in Company I to die at Chancellorsville.
Hobby Reynolds, Company H, Fifth New York Veterans Infantry, United States Army. Hobby was initially mustered into the Eighty-Fourth Regiment New York Volunteer Infantry on August 20, 1861 and was wounded less than a month later at the Battle of Antietam. He recuperated from that, and in June 1864 was transferred to Company H while it was in the thick of battle in Virginia. Hobby was fatally wounded in an engagement at Weldon Rail Road in August and died of his wounds on October 18, 1864.
Pvt. Benjamin Reynolds, Continental Army. A young, unmarried farmer from South Salem, New York, Benjamin was at the Battle of Monmouth, was part of a cohort of men assigned to protect the east side of the Hudson River and participated in the storming of Stony Point. In 1779-1780, during the coldest winter of the eighteenth century, Benjamin’s regiment was assigned to winter camp at Morristown, New Jersey. Here the soldiers had to build their own huts, drive packs of horses to Pennsylvania and wade through waist-deep snow to cut firewood for the camp’s hospital huts. Many died of dysentery or fever. Although no formal record of the circumstances surrounding Benjamin’s death in 1780 exists, it is believed that he succumbed to the harsh conditions at the winter camp.
These are just a few stories about the more than 1 million men and women that were lost to war since our great nation was established in 1776, and to whom we owe our freedom.
(The records of the Reynolds men, from my mother’s family lineage, are taken from Loyal to the Land: the History of a Greenwich, Connecticut Family, by Deborah Wing Ray and Gloria P. Stewart, 1990. The military death statistics are from Wikipedia).