"Did you remember the sarge and the gunners mate?"
Last year in my Memorial Day post I mentioned a Navy Corpsman name Bert Cooper, and how he never forgot the sacrifices of two particular men who died during the Okinawa Campaign. It is such a moving story, and so perfectly sums up the reasons for why we have a Memorial Day, that I thought I'd share the story again in his own words.
----Excerpt from Bert Cooper:
I remember one thing vividly about my service. On Okinawa [there was] this big ugly Marine (I swear he was uglier than Ernest Borgnine, who was a good actor, but an ugly actor), he was tough and muscular, and built like a tank; and his men loved him. We had him as a patient and he called me over to his stretcher in the tent there, and he says, "Doc, I don't think I'm gonna make this one." I said, "Oh come on, we never give up." He said, "I know. I just feel it in my body. I'm not going to make it this time." (And he'd been shot up several times on other island campaigns). And he says, "I wonder if anyone will remember me." So I looked him straight in the eye and I said, "I'll remember you Gunny. I'll remember you the rest of my life, I promise you that." So he died that evening.
Across the tent was a young sailor in a stretcher also. And he called me, "Hey Doc." He could hardly talk, it was only a whisper. About the only thing pink you could see were his lips. He was in a gun tub with eight other guys, gunnery men. And it got hit by a kamikaze and killed all seven, he was the only survivor if you can call it a survivor. When we got him he was black as this mic here. And we knew he didn't have much time left. But we kept him going for about a day and a half, and everything we could do... And it was amazing, the doctor even said he didn't know why he didn't die instantly from all these burns. So he calls me and I kneel down to his stretcher. I say, "Yeah gunner". And he says, "Doc, I'm an orphan. Who is there that's gonna remember me?" I says, "I'm gonna remember you. I'll remember you every day of my life. I promise you that. I'll remember you."
To this day, every night I ask myself when I pull the covers up to my chin, I say, "did you remember the sarge and the gunners mate?" And 99 times out of a 100 I thought of them during the day, and once in a while if I didn't , I go to sleep saying, "I thought of you guys." And I've been doing it every day since. It's not a burden. It's a testimonial to what men will do or have to do to save the freedom for the rest of us.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
This is the true meaning of Memorial Day. Thanks to Bert Cooper, those two brave men will never be forgotten.