Memorial Day 2020 Memories by Wags and McClosky.

As a platoon leader and Company Commander with the 173 Airborne Brigade from 1969 through 1970 there are too many soldiers in my command that I remember tomorrow and too many that I don’t. As the leader regardless of grade, when you are in combat people expect you to KEEP IT TOGETHER, or else look that way. In the dense triple canopy jungles of II Corps contact and combat was most often made at ranges closer than the size of a decent living room. You smelled or heard them before you saw them. Soldiers of both sides would appear and disappear in seconds in the dense foliage. If you were calling the shots it required all your attention. That is why when someone was wounded often my radio operator would make the call for a medivac, direct a LZ to be made or found in a safe area, and hand off the coordination of the evacuation of those who zigged when they should have zagged to the leader of the unit who requested the evacuation.  As the leader you were remotely aware of the chopper landing and perhaps you could divert your attention and see its departure from behind you. You hoped it would be the only one for the day.
Whenever the mayhem ended and you had secured your location you got a face to face report of the events of the day from that leader. Our unit was in continuous rotation, that is to say when a troop got short he left and the new guy arrived. No one served with me for the entire year I soldiered in Nam. In a platoon of 25-30 you might rotate 2-3 soldiers a week for stateside, illness, or wounds. In a company of 100 it is a revolving door. Although I met every soldier assigned to my unit sadly there were times when I would look the squad leader in the eye and ask, was that the kid from Texas or liked to surf ?? Finding out from your First Sargent that they had been sent to Japan for medical care left no closure. I never knew if that soldier came home in a plane seat or coffin.
I did a keynote speech at the mobile wall in SW PA years ago and my opening statement was “Of all the monuments in Washington DC I DISLIKED the Vietnam Monument most most”. As the audience looked at me in stunned silence I told them when I was there I would run my fingers over the names of the soldiers I knew and know that there were names of those from my unit that I did not, that they were a shadow of someone whom I sent into battle after finding out where he came from and what he liked doing the most before telling him to “stick close to your Sargent, he will keep you out of trouble”. That when I left the wall it was with a profound sadness for all those lost, that tears still come to this day. If they aren’t on the wall I wonder where they are ??
If I didn’t pay proper respect then I will tomorrow, when I salute that field of marble , bronze, and flags…..…again.
Robert “Wags” Wagner  LTC (RET) U S Army
Here are some more thoughts about Memorial Day from Pat.

Remember

One of my most memorable family trips was when we ventured on a bus tour to Washington, DC. Rob and Denise Dunbar, our friends, organized the trip and one of the highlights was a tour of the White House. Rob’s grandfather was a U.S Congressman and Rob and Denise knew the ropes to getting our security clearance and a tour of a truly magnificent historical residence. 

Everyone needs to do this trip several times because there are so many historically significant monuments to see as well as the varied museums and galleries. Our nation’s capitol is remarkable any time of the year and I can’t wait to go back someday. But the memory that sticks out to me, even to this day, was when we were immersed in the solemnity at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

The silence of the crowd was definitely noticeable as we watched the guard meticulously march in front of the tomb in the prescribed cadence and number of steps. This ceremony goes on at all times in all weather – night and day. It is a true honor to be chosen as one of the guards in this prestigious ceremony and we were all placed in a somber, reverent mood when we made our way through Arlington National Cemetery. Standing in that silent, and tranquil setting, my eyes gazed upon the rows and rows of the graves of the fallen soldiers who had been buried there. As far as the eye could see, the perfectly aligned sites,adorned with the white monuments bearing the statistics of the fallen, made me stop rigid in my tracks- taking in the enormity of the moment. I am a history buff, as you know from former posts, and I took some time to reflect on all of the wars, the sacrifices, the honored dead that were privileged enough to be laid to rest there. You could not help but think about the service that our men and women in uniform afford us, protecting our freedom every day, in the most demanding of situations world wide. I thought about my Uncle Jack, a B-24 Bomber Pilot in World War II, who flew 52 missions over Italy in the Anzio Campaign. Coming back each night with hundreds of flak holes in his fuselage, only to be repaired and sent out the next day on yet another perilous mission. 

I always admire anyone who has served in the military. Their courage, dedication, and sacrifice, is most exemplary. As the song goes, ” Some gave all, all gave some.” On the bus ride back , I sat in silence as my family slept and thought about how close I was to serving. I had a #11 draft number in college and had the Vietnam war continued on one more year, I would have been plucked from my comfortable early post office lounge in my dorm room and splatted down in some rice paddy in South Vietnam battling the North Vietnamese. I am friends with many who went and served and I respect them so wholeheartedly. What a rugged and unforgiving experience they had. Some made it back and some did not. I pray for their families and for all the families of the service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. They should never be forgotten and if you ever stand in the center of Arlington, the moment and experience will be forever etched in your memory.

So, as we embark on the holiday weekend, with our picnics, our mountain bike rides, hikes, horseback rides or rounds of golf, let’s all take a moment and remember those silent warriors who are buried in Arlington and in other sites around the world. Memorial Day is the official start to summer for sure, but it should never be lost on any of us, what the true meaning of that day is to our country. God bless and protect our service men and women and thanks for reading.

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Eminent Domain and the National Flight 93 Memorial

There is federal civil trail going on right now to determine if the appraisal of 275 key acres to the Memorial was too low. Appraisers have a set of procedures to follow when finding value and part of that process is determining highest and best use. In September 2009 the government paid Svonavecs $610,000 for the parcel through eminent domain. He is suing the government for $21 million. Here’s more to the story from the TribLive News

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Shut Down Closes 5 Local National Sites

If you are thinking about visiting the Flight 93 National Memorial, Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Friendship Hill National Historic Site, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, and or the Johnstown Flood National Memorial TALK TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE! Not only are the actual sites closed down so are their respective web sites!!

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Flight 93 National Memorial Visual Tour

Many of our readers have asked about the progress of this National Memorial. We’ll be updating the Visual Tour once a month to keep you updated.

Play VisualTour
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WHY You Should Use the RSS Feed!

We try to keep our readers more informed on the current happenings in the Laurel Highlands which includes Hidden Valley and Seven Springs Resorts. Now you are able to set up an RSS feed from our BLOG into your reader. That way you don’t have to search for our updates they come to when we post something new.

Many of you have a dazed look on your face! RSS feed! What’s that?! More technology?? Here’s a short YouTube video from commoncraft explaining what an RSS feed is and how it works!

Ok, now that you have a better understanding of how this will keep you updated on a more timely manner go get your reader! Then open up Laurel Highlands Local, look in the right column and scroll down until you come to the RSS Subscription box.

Click on the RSS symbol and it will ask if you want to subscribe and what folder you want the post to be delivered to. I have one in my e mail folders. That way you will get the latest on what’s happening in the Laurel Highlands, or from any other Blog or news source that you want to hear from!

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Flight 93 National Memorial Ground Breaking

Like any other Saturday I had a zillion things on my to do list.  But this was November 9th. The ground turning day for the Fight 93 NATIONAL Memorial in Shanksville, PA. From the resorts it’s a 40 minute drive one way but I knew I had to be there.

The site chosen for the ground turning was very flat. There were risers brought in for the media. Three small sections were roped off, Family Members, Media, Invited Guests. There were no chairs set up so everyone was standing making it challenging to see anything. The weather was gorgeous! Blue skies, warm sunshine, a slight breeze, planes in flight overhead.

Since I couldn’t see I recorded the audio for the majority of the ceremony. The state and federal government have committed millions to this Memorial.  The plan is to have the first phase completed for the 10th anniversary.       

 As with September 11, 2001 the end result will be life changing. Understand that this area is rural. No city water, no city sewer, no stop lights, no zoning, no commercial businesses like hotels or major restaurants.  NONE YET. We know they are coming. We welcome the world to this sacred site.

September 11 changed our country. The heroic efforts of the passengers on Flight 93 changed the lives of their family members. This National Memorial changes our community in so many ways.  As a local with family roots and a REALTOR it is my intent to document the progress and impact this National Memorial will have on our area.

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All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Copyright 2019.



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