The Real Meaning of This Holiday
Too often people with good intentions and heart-felt gratitude feel obligated to thank veterans for their service on Memorial Day. But this day is not for us veterans who have served. We’re still here. The ones who deserve your thanks on this day are not.
Memorial Day is to remember those who died in the service to their country, not for those who were fortunate enough to survive their service and, hopefully, have many years to have families and enjoy their post-service lives.
A family with a long history of service.
I have many heroic relatives who have served, and persevered, during their military service – my grandfather who served in the worst of WWI in the trenches of the Somme and other battlefields; my great grand uncle who fought the Bolsheviks in Siberia; a brother-in-law who served in Vietnam; and several great uncles and distant cousins who survived D-Day, the bombing campaigns of Germany from a B17; the sinking of USS Lexington; the retaking of Seoul during the Korean War; and various other combat engagements.
But the one I want to highlight this Memorial Day is Staff Sergeant Milo J. Kumpost, USA (pictured). He was my first cousin, twice removed. And he never returned from his service.
A young life given serving others.
SSgt. Kumpost was assigned to Co. C, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division. Shortly after the Battle of Mortain, some 30 miles to the west, his unit was on a reconnaissance mission in the French village of Lignières-Orgeres. This mission was a part of the Allies’ attempt to cut off the retreating German Army, a battle that would be known as the Falaise Gap. Apparently, SSgt. Kumpost was shot and killed in the town’s center by a German sniper on August 14, 1945, at the age of just 25. He died, shortly after D-Day while the allies were breaking out of their landing positions in Normandy.
His body wasn’t immediately recovered because local civilians and passing soldiers didn’t realize he was killed. To them, it appeared that he was sleeping. Although SSgt. Kumpost never had a wife or children to carry on his memory, the town where he paid the ultimate sacrifice for liberty continues to remember him – as well as the sacrifices of others involved in the liberation of their village in August, 1945.
Appreciating those for whom this holiday is meant.
As we celebrate Memorial Day, please understand its true meaning. It is to celebrate the valuable gift and sacrifice given by all of the servicemembers who have given their lives in the service to our country. It is they who have paid the ultimate price that allows us and our children to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
So you can thank me for my service on any other day – especially on Veterans’ Day – November 11 (the day after the Marine Corps birthday!). But please don’t thank me today. Instead, remember and be grateful for those who sacrificed their lives so that yours could remain free.