“A Date Which Will Live In Infamy”: Remembering Pearl Harbor

December 7th marks the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The two hour sneak attack by the Japanese left nearly 20 American naval vessels and more than 300 airplanes destroyed. Over 2,000 lives were lost and another 1,000 American soldiers and sailors were left injured. Three days later, after Congress approved President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s request to wage war on Japan, the United States joined other nations in World War II.

Much has changed for America since that day, but the feelings that survivors have about that day have not changed. Earl Brandes, Ed Guthrie, and Lawrence Osterbuhr were stationed in Honolulu the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Now, 75 years later, all three men are back in their home state of Nebraska–Brandes is 95, Guthrie is 97, and Osterbuhr is 96.

“We’re really comrades,” Brandes said. “There’s not too many people left our age.” The three men used to be part of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Nebraska chapter, but the group disbanded after December 2011 after the national organization decided there were too few members around to warrant a group. Since the group’s disbandment, the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, a group started in 1958, has helped to preserve the memory of those who served during the attack. “The Sons & Daughters wanted to make sure nobody forgot about Pearl Harbor,” Peg Murphy, Ed Guthrie’s daughter and the leader of the Nebraska chapter of the Sons & Daughters said.

Donald Stratton, another Pearl Harbor survivor from Red Cloud, Nebraska remembered the attack when he was a Seaman 1st Class aboard the USS Arizona. He and 1,177 shipmates managed to escape the Arizona for a neighboring ship and were spared during the attack. Stratton is now 94 years old, residing in Colorado Springs.

“The morning of Dec. 7, 1941, seemed like any other. We worked out a little bit and ate chow. I grabbed a few oranges to bring to a buddy of mine who was in the sick bay. Then I walked out onto the deck and saw some sailors congregating on the ship’s starboard side. They were looking across the water at Ford Island, an islet in the center of Pearl Harbor, and they were hollering — planes with the Japanese Zero insignia were banking through the sky.‘Oh, hell, it’s the Japanese!’ somebody shouted. ‘They’re bombing the water tower on Ford Island.’ We watched the tower fall and planes on the runway over there burst into flames,” Stratton said.

Across the nation, December 7th is a national day of remembrance. In El Paso, Colorado, Jim Downing was made a member of the El Paso County Commissioners just as a commemoration announcement for Pearl Harbor Day was announced. “My message to this generation: You are the leaders, you are the taxpayers, you are the voters, you are the legislators. Weakness invites aggression; keep America strong,” Downing said. “I want to keep America so strong that no adversary will ever think of attacking us.”  Downing is one of the oldest living survivors at 103 years old.

In Hawaii, the war memorials for the attack are alive and thriving. This December 7th, people from all backgrounds will stand on Kilo Pier with the USS Arizona Memorial behind them to remember what happened. At the memorial, visitors can see pieces of metal from the downed ship in the water. The metal is still wet with oil that continuously leaks from the ship 75 years later. In addition, Hangar 79 at the Pacific Aviation Museum holds artifacts recovered from the site.

December 7, 1941 was a day of great loss for our country. It entered us into a war and the pain of the attack is still felt by survivors today. Now, we remember those who lost their lives in service to our country and try to keep their memory alive.

On December 7th, and every day, we remember the great sacrifice our soldiers and sailors made. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting veterans in all aspects of their lives, including helping those who are in need of assistance while transitioning home from the battlefield. You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.


 

Giving Thanks for Freedom this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to look back on the year gone by and reflect what you are thankful for. Thankfulness can come in many forms–having a new job, being able to provide for your family, or keeping friendships alive. For Americans, we have an extra reason to be thankful. Men and women in uniform working overseas and domestically make it possible for us to live in a free country.

For those who are overseas during the Thanksgiving holiday, the feeling can be bittersweet. Some are in war-torn areas fighting the enemy and most are away from the comforts of home and their families. There have been 152 recognized Thanksgiving holidays since its inception and despite being in unfamiliar territory, the armed forces have tried to make Thanksgiving as normal as possible for those deployed.

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Even though the first nationally recognized Thanksgiving was not observed by the military because of a shortage of resources, over the years, there has been a push to have a Thanksgiving meal, regardless of where a service member is stationed. This food is usually gathered starting in May and sent out with the temperature-controlled food taking up to three months to reach its destination.

According to the Department of Defense, this is how much food was shipped out to various military bases across the world to prepare for a Thanksgiving feast last year:

  • 51,699 pounds of turkey

  • 25,970 pounds of beef

  • 17,130 pounds of ham

  • 706 gallons of eggnog

  • 3,360 pounds of marshmallows

That is the equivalent to:

  • 17 adult female hippos

  • 14 1/2 Smart cars

  • 24 male zebras

  • 45 1/2 full kegs of beer

  • 122 gold bars

The gathering of food doesn’t just stop at traditional holiday fare either. The Oak Lawn Park district in Illinois held its 6th annual Treats for Troops drive to send leftover and extra Halloween candy to those serving overseas.

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While having a hot dinner can help stave off the feeling of homesickness during the holiday season, physically being with family and friends can make the holidays that much better. Spencer Girard, a seaman stationed in Norfolk, VA won a “Happy ThanksGathering” lottery to be the only person out of all the sailors and Marines stationed to be reunited with his family for the holiday. Katherine Girard said she hadn’t seen her son in a year and a half and being with him for the holidays last November was extra special, “The way they did it was just … oh my goodness. I didn’t know Norfolk was the world’s largest naval station, but you see when you get there. They spent a huge amount of money to treat everyone to a great Thanksgiving.”

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On November 5, 2016, in the Albuquerque Convention Center while being welcomed back with the 126th Military Police Company from the Middle East, Specialist Rene Lopez held her daughter Amaya as her husband Specialist Jassen Lopez looked on. The couple were deployed to Kuwait together and left their four children, ages 3 to 8, in the care of family.

“Thanksgiving has come early to the people of the state of New Mexico,” Brigadier General Andy Salas, the state Guard’s adjutant general, told the crowd. The 120 soldiers who performed custom inspections-type work in maritime ports and airports across different parts of the Middle East wasn’t due back to the United States until January.

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Kristen Smith, an Army wife, understands the changing nature of spending the holidays with someone in the military. Last year, she recalled how different the past 11 Thanksgivings have been with, and without, her husband. Thanksgiving celebrations varied greatly from sitting on the couch with her son watching movies to finally having her husband home last year for a “shockingly normal holiday.” For Smith, having such different variations of celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday has helped her be grateful in a way that she “could never have understood 12 years ago.”

During this holiday season, and every season, we are thankful for the work our troops do overseas so we can enjoy the freedom we have today. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting veterans in all aspects of their lives, including helping those who are in need of assistance while transitioning home from the battlefield. You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.


241 Years of Strength Through Service: Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps

“There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion,” said General William Thomson of the United States Army. The United States of America was born in a hall in the middle of a sweltering summer when men from all corners of the colonies came together to discuss separating from Great Britain. These men knew that declaring independence would eventually bring war to their shores.

At the dawn of the revolution, farmers, blacksmiths, and business owners organized to fight for independence. A large majority of the colonists believed that a full separation from Great Britain would remedy the injustices of high taxes. That initial formation by these tradesmen gave birth to a Continental Navy and eventually the Continental Marines.

The United States of America has been protected by a military force unlike any other since the beginning of the republic. But there was a need to create forces that would be able to protect the homeland and the ships of the Continental Navy. On November 10th, 1775, the Continental Congress met to form a new service branch of the Department of the Navy that would be able to serve and protect.

According to a decree, “That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates as with other battalions, that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies; unless dismissed by Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalions of Marines.” They would later be disbanded in 1783 and reformed into the modern day United States Marine Corps in 1798.

The first “Captain of the Marines”, or what is now known as the Commandant of the Marines Corps, Samuel Nicholas led the Corps though multiple missions and helped to transform it into the body it is today. Upon receiving his commission, Nicholas used Tun Tavern as a recruiting station to have young men sign up. At the end of 1775, Captain Nicholas raised five companies of Marines and sailed with them to the shores of the Bahamas in their first international battle.

In March of 1776, he led over 200 men in a bloody raid on Nassau, catching the British by surprise. Their success led to the capture of two forts, 88 cannon, 15 mortars, and multiple military storage facilities. Under the leadership of Captain Nicholas, the Marines racked up many successful battles during the revolution.

The Marine Corp has led the fight in battles like Iwo Jima, Belleau Wood, and the Chosin Reservoir. Their determination led them into battle with clear eyes that kept focused on completing their assigned mission. It was their grit that led them through each battle, fighting with precision, keeping each other safe, and making sure the enemy was stopped.

The United States Marines are considered the most “ancient” of the branches because of its philosophy and training techniques. The idea behind the culture is that each Marine become an elite warrior in defense of the United States. It has worked for 241 years and is still going strong. These men and women join a branch of the military that is combat oriented. As they train for war, they are taught to be brutal but to never lose their humanity. The safety and security of the United States of America is the ultimate objective which is met with the utmost seriousness. Author Thomas E. Ricks said it best, “The United States Marine Corps, with its fiercely proud tradition of excellence in combat, its hallowed rituals, and its unbending code of honor, is part of the fabric of American myth.”

The United States Marine Corps continues to be the first line of defense around the world. They have defended the District of Columbia from the British during the War of 1812. As an international force, the Marines have protected many American interests. From the coasts of the Caribbean and the Falkland Islands to the jungles of Vietnam and the desserts of Iraq. The Marines have lived up to their motto, “Semper Fidelis” which translates to “Always Faithful.” They ignite fear in the soul of the enemy and fill each American with pride. Even the German soldiers referred to the Marines as the “Teufel Hunden” or “Devil Dogs” for their ferocious fighting style in World War I. The nickname is now used to motivate Marines in battle. After 241 years, these patriots have improved modern warfare with a steady hand and down to the bone toughness.

To those “leathernecks” and “devil dogs” who have served our nation, we thank you for dedicating your lives to being a Marine. We thank you for the grit and determination it took to protect us all here at home. To those who are serving us abroad from the shores of Okinawa to the hills of Afghanistan, we appreciate the sacrifice you are making for us each and every day.

The Marine Corps still considers November 10th, 1775 as their official birthday. We at the Purple Heart Foundation celebrate the 241 years that the Marine Corps have dedicated their lives to protecting our nation. Since 1775, the United States Marine Corps has transitioned from defending 13 colonies to serving 50 united and organized states. That service began here at home with the inception of our nation and has reached far beyond our shores. The Purple Heart Foundation wishes you all a very Happy 241st Birthday. Help us continue our mission of honoring their sacrifice with our service by donating here today. Semper Fi!


 

Veterans Day: A Time to Honor Those Who Served

Are you enjoying your freedom? You have a veteran to thank for that. As we celebrate the 98th anniversary of when “the war to end all wars” was ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember those who fought for our country.

Veterans are defined as someone who has served in the armed forces. They have helped keep our country safe and have put themselves in unusual circumstances to serve. While Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those who have fought and fallen in the service of the United States, Veterans Day remembers all veterans, regardless of if their service was in peacetime or war.

Across the nation, ceremonies and observances will be held to honor America’s heroes. At Arlington National Cemetery, a ceremony will be held at approximately 11:00 am with a wreath laying at the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, continuing into the Memorial Amphitheater. This will be followed by a parade of colors made up of various veterans’ organizations.

Jerry Knouff went over to Vietnam from the summer of 1971 to the summer of 1972. Knouff, a retired Army aviator CW2 who worked with convoy escorts, reconnaissance of the area he was in, and other groups, gave his perspective on what Veterans Day means to him, “I think Veterans Day is different for veterans than it is for the average public. The public’s got to understand only one percent of the public were veterans and of that percentage was a smaller amount who were in combat.”

“Veterans Day reminds us of the good and bad. It reminds us of when we came back in the 60s and 70. When we came back, we were looked down upon. Fortunately, that’s gone away. But it also reminds you of the friends you lost over there. But the most important thing is the public needs to be reminded that if it wasn’t for veterans and Veterans Day, you wouldn’t be able to do what you’re doing today.” Knouff said.

There are many ways you can honor your veterans this Veterans Day. Military.com created a moving tribute to veterans on their website that includes sound clips from past presidents as well as images from various overseas conflicts. Indiana University and the University of Kansas recently unveiled commemorative basketball uniforms that will be used to play in the season opener today. Indiana’s uniforms will be red and white with the word “Courage” printed on the front and Kansas will wear blue and white uniforms with the word “Honor” written on the front.

There are also simple ways you can serve your veterans. Some ways to help include:

  • Visiting a wounded veteran in the hospital.

  • Help repair the home of a veteran or military family

  • Deliver a meal or care package to veterans

  • Help a veteran tell their story by recording their experiences

  • Volunteer with a veteran service organization

  • Say thank you when you see a veteran

The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting veterans in all aspects of their lives, including helping those who are looking for jobs after their military service has ended. You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.


 

Purple Heart Day 2016

August 7 marks National Purple Heart Day. The holiday, which was first observed two years ago commemorates those who have received a Purple Heart Medal and gives recognition for the sacrifices members of the U.S. armed forces have made. Those who have received this prestigious medal gave all they had for the good of our country.

The ‘Badge of Military Merit’ was first given to soldiers in the Revolutionary War by General George Washington in 1782. It signified “being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.” At the time of the Badge of Merit inception, Washington instructed that it be given as appropriate with no set criteria for awarding the Badge of Merit.

The Badge of Military Merit was reinstated twice, once in 1927 and again in 1931. General Charles Pelot Summerall wished for a bill to pass in Congress regarding the Badge, but no action was taken after 1928. In 1931, General Summerall had been succeeded by General Douglas MacArthur and brought renewed interest in reinstating the award. On February 22, 1932, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, the Badge of Military Merit was renamed the Purple Heart in honor of the fabric used to create the original award. The first Purple Heart was awarded to General MacArthur.

As of 2010, approximately 2 million Purple Heart Medals have been awarded to members of the US Armed Forces. The Purple Heart has also been awarded retroactively to include those who fit the criteria from the First World War.

One of the benefits of having Purple Heart Day is hear from veterans who lived during dark periods in history and are able to share stories about courage, honor, and strength. All across the country on Aug. 7, communities will come together to celebrate this special group of American citizens and pay their respects for the ones who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.

This Purple Heart Day, take some time out of your day and listen and share stories about veterans and the strength they showed during their time in the military. It is because of them that we are able to truly celebrate their accomplishments with this holiday and remember and honor the sacrifices all our veterans have made over the years.

The Purple Heart Foundation works with all veterans from all wars. Having a Purple Heart medal is not a prerequisite for service members to receive assistance from the Purple Heart Foundation. This Purple Heart Day, join the Purple Heart Foundation by making a charitable donation in honor or memorial of someone you know that has served our country. With the assistance of generous supporters like yourself, the Purple Heart Foundation is able to continue assisting veterans and their families. There are many ways you can get involved:

 


 

Happy Birthday, America!

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As you’re celebrating Fourth of July this weekend with barbeques and fireworks, you can share a little American history with the other revelers.

When fighting began between Massachusetts militia units and British regulars at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, most colonists, except for a handful of “radicals” weren’t on board with complete independence from Great Britain. But by mid 1776, hostilities mounted, and the sentiment shifted. The colonies band together to form the Continental Army and battle the British.

In June 1776, the Continental Congress met at Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia to hear delegate Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence. Prior to voting, Congress appointed a five-man committee to write a formal statement—the Declaration of Independence.

On July 2nd, delegates voted in favor of Lee’s motion, and on July 4th they officially adopted the Declaration of Independence.

In the early years, some colonists celebrated by holding mock funerals for King George III, to symbolize the end of British reign in America. They held bonfires and parades and public readings of the Declaration.

Did You Know…

  • Thomas Jefferson believed that July 2nd was the appropriate day to celebrate Independence Day and refused to attend Fourth of July celebrations.
  • Thirteen of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were under 35.
  • Congress first authorized pyrotechnics (a.k.a. fireworks) as part of Fourth of July celebrations in July 1777.
  • In 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to make July 4th a state holiday.
  • After the War of 1812, when the colonies again faced Great Britain, Independence Day festivities became even more intensified.
  • Fourth of July is one of only four holidays, including New Years Day, Veterans Day and Christmas celebrated on the same calendar day each year.
  • Today, Americans celebrate with more than 14,000 fireworks displays across the nation.

 

Happy Fourth of July! Have fun; be safe and take a moment to remember how it all began.

The Army’s Birthday: Celebrating 240 Years of Service

The Army’s Origins

Born out of rebellion, the colonies didn’t have a formal army, just the troops from various New England militia companies cobbled together to form an amateur force. Each colony armed, funded and supported its own militia of American volunteers.

In early 1775, as they prepared to confront the highly-trained, well-organized British troops near Boston, Massachusetts, the revolutionaries had to quickly band their forces together, name a leader and establish a unified chain of command. This effort required the support of all the American seaboard colonies.

The Massachusetts Provincial Congress asked the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia to accept authority for the New England army. On June 14, 1775, Congress formed a committee “to bring in a draft of rules and regulations for the government of the Army,” and earmarked $2,000,000 to support the forces near Boston and New York City.

Additionally, they formed ten companies of expert riflemen from the middle colonies where rifles were primarily being used at the time: six from Pennsylvania, two from Virginia and two from Maryland. This group comprised frontiersmen and some of the militia leaders who were veterans of a unit known as Roger’s Rangers, skilled woodsmen who fought for the British during the French and Indian War.

Congress also appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief of their Continental Army. He formally took command at Boston on July 3, 1775.

The Army Flag

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Source: pinterest.com/robbinshelen

In 1956 on the Army’s 181st anniversary, the Army flag made its debut at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The white silk flag has a blue embroidered central design of the original War Office seal. “United States Army” is inscribed in white letters on a scarlet scroll, with the year “1775” in blue numerals below.

 

The Army Through the Years

THE ARMY NATIONAL GUARD

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Salem, Massachusetts, 1637—The history of the National Guard began, Dec. 13, 1636, when the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered the organization of the colony’s militia companies into three regiments: the North, South and East.

WORLD WAR II

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Stepping Stone Island on the Vella Lavella Island Front, Southwest Pacific, 1943— Infantrymen of Company “I” await word to advance in pursuit of retreating Japanese forces. Signal Corps Photo: 161-43-4081 (Schuman)

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Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944—An assault landing, one of the first waves at Omaha. The Coast Guard caption identifies the unit as Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.

VIETNAM

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Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, 1965—Major Bruce P. Crandall’s UH-1D helicopter climbs skyward after discharging a load of infantrymen on a search and destroy mission.

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM

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Iraq, June, 2010—A Soldier, with A Battery, Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), walks the tarmac of Mosul Airfield at Contingency Operating Base Diamondback.

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM

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Farah Province, Afghanistan, June, 2010—U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shawn Meno of Mangilao provides security for Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah and members of a local Kuchi tribe residing in Bawka District in. (U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rylan K. Albright)

In 1775, the Soldiers of the Continental Army forged a bond with Americans built on duty and victory that endures 240 years later. Today, we remember the origins and honorable service of our army professionals and commemorate those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Remembering D-Day

Seventy-one years ago on June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded Western Europe in the largest air, land and sea operation attempted before or since. Sometimes called the beginning of the end of war in Europe, the Battle of Normandy eventually resulted in the liberation of Western Europe.

Called Operation Overlord, D-Day planning included a massive deception campaign that aimed to convince the Germans that the main invasion point would be Pas-de-Calais (the narrowest point between Britain and France) instead of Normandy. Tactics included fake equipment, a phantom army commanded by George Patton, double agents, and phony radio transmissions.

On June 5, 1944, Operation Overlord was set into motion. An advance wave of paratroopers and glider troops dropped into enemy territory to secure bridges and exit roads.

Eisenhower speaking with paratroopers on June 5, 1944.

The amphibious invasions began at 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944, when 160,000 Allied troops and 30,000 vehicles landed along five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of French coastline. Soldiers jumped, swam, ran, and crawled to the cliffs towering overhead crossing 200 yards of beach before reaching the protection of the brush and rocks at the base of the cliff.

The Americans faced and overcame mild opposition at Utah Beach, as did the British and Canadians at Gold, Juno and Sword beaches. However, U.S. forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, where there were over 2,000 American casualties.

Throughout the summer, the Allies fought their way across Normandy through the marshes and hedgerow against a determined German resistance. By the end of June, they had seized the port of Cherbourg and continued their march across France.

In August, they reached the Seine River and liberated Paris, effectively concluding the Battle of Normandy.

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Allied troops march through Paris along Champs de Elysee.

 

Today in The Normandy American Cemetery that overlooks Omaha Beach and the English Channel lie the graves of over 9,300 U.S. service men who died in the D-Day invasion or subsequent missions.

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The Normandy American Cemetery

Regardless how many years go by; we will always remember their sacrifice. We salute you.