WHY DO WE CELEBRATE MEMORIAL DAY?
Memorial Day is a Federal holiday here in the United State on which we pay tribute and remember those who have died while serving in our nation's Armed Forces. It is a holiday now set for the final Monday in May. In years past, May 30th. was the official date for Memorial Day.
As our nation grows older and the times of "world-wars" becomes more and more of a faint memory to many, it is a holiday that may be misunderstood at times. Yes, it is a extra day off this weekend for many. There are picnics, events and get-togethers over the Memorial Day weekend that don't exactly fall in theme or step with why the holiday was established....but it is a tribute, a remembrance of those who "gave all" for our freedoms.
Do you have anyone in your family or friendship circle who died while in service of our Armed Forces? I have previously mentioned my Uncle Martin here at the site, who died while in the Pacific in 1944 when a violent typhoon overtook his ship and killed almost 200 of his fellow shipmates and him.
Here's another one who "gave all" that I knew.
I recently found out more about someone who had been influential in my early days...someone who died in Vietnam on Aug. 17th, 1968. Steve Tully was an Air Force sergeant who was killed in combat.
Steve was one of my "volunteer" coaches when I played Fern Creek Optimist Softball in the summer of 1965. He was not drafted into the Air Force, the draft didn't start until the year after he died, he was thinking about enlisting in the Air Force and was basically "killing time" around the Fern Creek area...graduated from high school but not sure what he wanted to do yet. Working with kids, doing odd jobs and such until he decided. He didn't want to go to college, although, from what I recall, certainly had the grades for it.
He worked with me, as I was a pitcher -- on my stride, loft of ball and placement. He spent a lot of practices "catching me" while the rest of the kids got to do all the fun stuff like hit, play infield and outfield, slide and run.
This was "slow-pitch" and I remember we had a pretty good team. I have old 8 mm movie reels from my parents' collection, that show me striking kids out or getting them to ground out and me running the bases after getting a hit, showboating and showing no respect for my opponents or the game...I was tall, lanky, skinny kid with a buzz hair-cut, glasses and ears the size of Montana -- sporting an old Cincinnati Reds ball cap and a hardware store-sponsor green t-shirt.
Heck, I looked like a younger version of Steve. Maybe that's why we got along.
I seem to recall he was a bit of a "jokester" as well. We had a par-3 golf course back out behind our house and the story was he would, occasionally, "caddie" out there and humorously sometimes replace a real golf ball with a plastic one, much to the surprise of the golfer he was caddying for.
He was Beatles and Stones. Me and my boys were trying to figure out the lyrics to "Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs" Wooly Bully...and we thought the theme to "Bonanza" was cool.
His mother, Roberta Tully, was an art teacher at my my high school at the time, I had her for 7th grade art, and she progressed through the Jefferson County Board of Education ranks from teacher to administrator to do some very wonderful things and eventually had a grade school named after her in Jeffersontown after she retired. She and my Mom were in a "women's club" together and both judged the annual Fern Creek Art Fair.
People were rioting out in California and...although me and my gang didn't exactly understand why, we knew it had something to do about freedom, black people and rights.
Why couldn't they have the rights we did? Fern Creek was rural, not many African-American families at all. We didn't understand, but, soon...we would.
War to us was Gomer Pyle TV shows and late night WW II movies. John Wayne and The Longest Day. That would soon change.
Our country was on the edge of a cultural change and violent disagreement over it, the war and civil rights.
Ah, the summer of 1965. Fern Creek was a small town -- Andy of Mayberry-like-- rural back then. One stop light on Bardstown Road....in front of the high school. Two filling stations, two drug stores, five churches and three barber shops. No councilmen or state representatives, just a "constable". The "big time" was further north on Bardstown Road, where there was a shopping center housing both a Kroger and Winn-Dixie, Woolworth's, Liberty Bank and bakery.
Eastland Shopping Center. A neon light and sign out front, sidewalks and parking! No McDonald's, cell phones or Lyft. Just the old dependable bus line Blue Motor Coach that would take you to Buechel, (where there was a McDonald's, drive-in theater and a bowling alley) and back for 25 cents. My dad had a 1964 Ford Fairlane. With a "three on the tree" manual transmission.
Steve Tully was killed in the Bien Hoa province...he was stationed at the Bien Hoa Air Force base. Not many details from the official death list, just an accounting that he died in a hospital from injuries. We were told at school only that he had died in service of his country. I can't rightly say for sure what immediate effect that his death had on my military stance and political viewpoints back then....too many years ago....but I think I did start to view those who served in a different light and it undoubtedly influenced my future thoughts and decisions. That and having a retired Naval Warrant officer for a dad.
Mrs. Tully was off a few weeks after Steve's death and we had a substitute. I found out years later it was incoming fire from the NVA, shelling the airport base and surrounding city that got him.
I'll think of Steve today and what might have been...if he had returned. I'll pray that we never have a conflict like Vietnam, or Korea or the World Wars' ever again. He paid the ultimate price for our country.
Remember our fallen. They cannot speak for themselves anymore. Would you do the same as they have done? Give up your life to protect others? This wasn't recording kills and shooting down combatants on "Call Of Duty" or some other online game. This was real.
(We'll get back into UofL women's spots tomorrow. Thank you for reading.)