“Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor,
and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which
they lived and died.” - Ronald Reagan at Pointe du hoc, June 6, 1984
May 23, 2013 - Share on
A Legacy Of Heroes Like 'Junior'
This weekend we set aside our concerns about taxes, tax
reform and the political landscape, to honor the men and women who made the
ultimate sacrifice while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Contrary to popular opinion, Memorial Day is not about
shopping, the beach or hotdogs and hamburgers.
It is a time to stop what we are doing, put away our
political differences and pay tribute to those individuals – both known and unknown
– who have paid the ultimate price for our nation’s freedom.
Individuals like PFC Thomas W. Phillips, Jr. from Bullard,
“Junior” as friends and family knew him, was the energetic and optimistic
son of traveling farmers. In 1944, like many other small town boys across
America, he left the only home he had ever known for the U.S. Army.
Soon, he was headed for the European theatre and along with
160,000 other terrified yet brave patriots, landed along a desolate, 50-mile stretch
of heavily fortified beachfront in Normandy, France. General Dwight D.
Eisenhower had told them the evening before, “the eyes of the world are upon
you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.”
From Pointe du hoc
and beyond the Allied forces D-Day
invasion was fully engaged. By most accounts, Junior was rather lucky - having
survived the initial assault.
But on July 3, 1944, his jeep hit a landmine in Caen, France
immediately killing him. His family, too poor to return his body home to Texas,
chose to bury him at The American Cemetery in Normandy, France. His mother and
father never saw his grave, nor did any other member of his immediate family.
Thomas W. Phillips was my great uncle. In 1998, I visited his
grave at Normandy; one of the most beautiful and hallowed places on earth.
During the 3-hour bus ride from Paris, passenger chatter was
lively. Upon arrival at the cemetery, our tour guide gave us a specific
departure time and location.
At the appointed time, the bus was missing. Approximately 45
minutes later it slowly arrived and we boarded. The tour guide apologized and
explained the reason for the delay.
One of our fellow passengers was an American soldier during
the D-Day invasion. That day marked the first time he had returned to the
battlefields that claimed so many. He
asked the tour guide if the bus driver could take him to the graves of his best
friends; some of which were Allied troops buried in a nearby cemetery.
At that moment there was no passenger chatter - no
complaining of the late bus. The only sound was the uncontrollable sobbing coming
deep from the soul of a now elderly hero mourning the loss of his fellow brothers
Whatever your plans for this Memorial Day, please take a
moment and remember Junior and all of the men and women who gave the ultimate
sacrifice so that you and I may forever be free.
Until next week,