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Focus on the Family Broadcast

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Honoring the Fallen on Memorial Day

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Honoring the Fallen on Memorial Day

Focus President Jim Daly and John Fuller share listener-submitted stories of friends and family members who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we enjoy today as Americans.

Original Air Date: May 26, 2014

Today's Guests

Episode Summary

Focus President Jim Daly and John Fuller share listener-submitted stories of friends and family members who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we enjoy today as Americans.

Original Air Date: May 26, 2014

Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpts:

Marilyn: My brother, Glen Howard Rippleton, was killed in 1951. He was a fighter pilot. He flew in Koreaand he gave his life for our country.

Jamie: Corporal Benjamin Keith Roushenbergerwas 25-years-old, was killed April 15, 2013. He was 4 1/2 years in the Marines. We love you and miss you and wecan’t wait to see you in Heaven.

Mickey: Bruno and Uncle Mikey went MIA. Bruno came back in a body bag and Uncle Mikey was never found. They gave their lives for this country.

Evelyn: I just want to honor my daddy that was killed in France December the third, 1944. I still remember him and think about him. His name was Crandall Pierson.

End of Excerpts

Body:

Jim Daly: I’m Jim Daly and today we have a special Memorial Day edition of “Focus on the Family.” Today we remember. We’re paying tribute to those who not only served in our military, but gave up their life, fighting against tyranny so that you and I can enjoy the freedom that we’ve been given today in America. Courageous men of honor, brave men, trustworthy men, men like Milburn Manning.

Phone Call:

Bruce: Well, it was December 7th, 1941 and my Uncle Milburn Manning was stationed at the Kaneohe Naval Air Station near Pearl Harbor. And when the attack started, he jumped into a sand bag bunker and grabbed hold of a 50-caliber machine gun and began fighting (Sound of machine gun) back. And as fate would have it, he was nearly cut in two with machine fire from the enemy aircraft (Sound of airplane) and then he died as a result of those wounds. So, here on Memorial Day, I really want to honor my Uncle Milburn. You gotta hand it to these guys. They just gave it all and so many of them.

End of Phone Call

Jim: That’s just one of the stories we have to share on “Focus on the Family” today. John Fuller joins me and John, every Memorial Day it’s a good opportunity to reflect on our nation’s great heritage and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and for that the reason, that’s why I have that somberness in my voice today.

John Fuller: Well, it’s appropriate and it’s as you said, right for us to stop and pause. And what we have on this broadcast are a number of comments that you called us with in recent months. And our comment line received several hundred calls from friends and family members who are grateful to their loved ones for serving country in this way, even though that price they paid is very, very difficult to bear.

Jim: Well, and we’ve selected some of the most interesting and heartfelt stories, knowing that each and every story is representative of an important life and a life that was given for this country. Some even called in to rememberfamily members who served more than 150 years ago. Quite amazing!

Phone Call:

Dorothy: I wanted to make my dedication to my great great great uncle Linly. He joined the regiment in Maine out of high school to fight for freedom in the Civil War. But I am really proud to be the descendant of a person who passed on the Christian legacy, that it’s worth fighting for the truth, that all people are created in the image of God and that this is a truth worth fighting for

End of Phone Call

John: Unfortunately, some military families don’t know the details of how their soldier died until one day,months or years down the road. When they’re not even thinking about their loved one, someone stops by or they get a phone call. In fact, here’s Allen Folsom who had to make just such a call.

Phone Call:

Allen: I served in Iraq 2006 as a medic for the Air Force and one night we received a bunch of choppers from and IED explosion that had taken out a Bradley vehicle. And there were several wounded Marines on board and we were working feverishly on one young man who was about 19, 20. He unfortunately was dying and there no need to continue life-saving measures. I felt compelled as a Christian, for some reason, God was telling me to take this kid’s hand and pray for him. And I knelt beside him and I took his hand as he laid on the gurney and I squeezed his hand, I felt a response and I just prayed with him. And I said, “You’re gonna go into the presence of God and I just want to pray with you. God loves you. Jesus died for you and He’s ready to take you home.” And he squeezed back a response and he passed away, but I was so struck by the peace on his face. And it was if God was telling me, “This is why I have you here.” And I took that and I didn’t do a lot with it for a lot of months.

And I came home and at that point, I looked up this kid on the Internet, did a little research. I called his mom, his dad and I left a message and I said, “Would it be okay if I spoke with you. I was probably last person to see your son alive.” They called me back and I spoke with his mother and told her exactly what I just told you. And she broke down and she started crying on the phone to me. And I apologized. I said, “I’m sorry for making you feel so bad. I just thought you wanted to know.” And she said, “Oh, no, no, no, you haven’t made me feel bad.”

She said, “When Ryan was a little boy, I used to take him to the doctor and he was always so afraid and so frightened, he would reach out to me and say, “Mommy please hold my hand. Please hold my hand, mommy (Weeping).” And so, she said, “Knowing that you were there holding his hand as he was going into eternity is a source of great comfort.” And I’ve been in the military for 30 years and I’m getting ready to retire and I would like it to be known that if there is anything that I’m to be remembered for, it is for that.

End of Phone Call

Jim: Other families may have only been notified that their family member was listed MIA–Missing in Action. Then, one day, the government gives them some news. Carla shares about her brother’s story.

Phone Calls:

Carla: He was missing in action for a little over 38 years. We never had any bodies or anything and just probably about 15 years ago, they did a DNA test on my mom and my brother and they were able to match an arm that was washed up on shore in Okinawa, where the government had released over there bones of missing Marines. So, we was able to bury him, well, the bone and then, just recently this year, a hip was found. It finally came to a closure with my brother after burying his hip bone and his arm about 15 years ago.

Thomas: This story is about John Kenneth Day. Ken Day is the deceased relative of friends of ours. He was killed on October 5th, 1944, defending the United States as a member of the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment outside of Opheusden, Holland. He single handedly engaged several German tanksusing a bazooka in an attempt to take out the tanks which had his unit pinned down. He selflessly charged the tanks with a loaded round and fired at the tank and the round was displaced, bouncing off of the tank. Realizing the situation and realizing that now the tank has turned its turret away from his comrades, he charged for cover, only to receive direct fire from the tank, killing him instantly.

His family was unaware of the manner in which he died for over 65 years, until research and friendship and the Internet allowed us to find a survivor of his unit who sat down with John Kenneth Day’s brother, to recount the manner in which his brother had died. It was a tearful moment and a moment of closure and I’m so glad that we have people such as that, that would lay down their life to honor their family and our country.

Linda: On December 10th, 2006, my husband and I received the phone call no parent wants to receive. My daughter-in-law called to tell us that our youngest son, Sgt. Brennan Gibson, was killed in action when an IED detonated near the Humvee he was riding in while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq. He was 26. He was laid to rest on December 27th, what would have been his 27th birthday.

And not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him, along with his beautiful smile and his infectious laughter. My husband and I never would’ve thought he would be the kid that ended up jumping out of airplanes or joining the military, I believe every soldier has a story and I thank God for the time we’ve had with him on earth. Thank you for letting me share a little bit about our hero, Sgt. Brennan Gibson.

End of Phone Calls

Jim: That’s unbelievable perspective and it’s true;every soldier has a story. And discovering their story was part of Joshua Poulson’s job when he served as a mortuary affairs specialist in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003. Think of the weight of this young man’s assignment. Josh and another soldier prepared the bodies of several hundred troops to return home from the battlefield, young men who were his age,19 or 20.

Phone Call:

Joshua: Specialist Saunders was one of the, almost first guys I saw and Specialist Saunders came in and he was tanker and he got a sniper shot to the head and just my first time, I guess it really hit me because he was my age and just seeing him on the table just kind of shocked me into reality and actually try to inventory his personal effects and send them back to his family and stuff.

We go through them and we make sure there’s no bloody letters or anything else. So, we get to read the letters. And I’ve read from kids to their dads and they’ve drawn little pictures of their families and stuff and saying to moms, that they’re gonna come home soon.

And it’s tough to read those letters, because then you get to know the person. You see his pictures from his unit. You know, you get to see all his stuff he brought with them, that he’ll never really handle again himself. And you got to know that person on your table, because not only were you seeing him, but you were also seeing his family or reading his letters. You were getting everything prepared to go back to the U.S.

And whenever we got a body, we always give them honors. We got all the paperwork ready and then before we put him back of the truck, we always put the flags on and everything else. And once it came out of the truck, it had the flag on it and it was shown all respect and honor. We’d salute the caskets as we loaded them on board the plane and they’re all flown back on a hero flight.

End of Phone Call

John: I remember, Jim, being on the last leg of one of those “hero flights,” as Joshua called them and the captain asked us to remain seated as a soldier’s casket was removed and my goodness, what a sobering experience that was.

Jim: Many of us who fly, often probably experience those flights and they were; they were a time of reflection. When a soldier returns to U.S. soil in a casket, there’s no doubt about the emotion of the family members. You feel it, especially moms. Janice tells us about her son and how she discovered a bright spot in the midst of her grief–something that her son said he wanted if he died in battle.

Phone Call:

Janice: My son was Capt. Jesse Melton, the Third United States Marine Corps. He served in the Marine Corps for 11 years and Jesse was killed in Afghanistan on September the 9th, 2008. But Jessie learned from an early age from the Word of God, that a good leader should make it his or her goal to lead by serving. Jesse truly lived out Micah 6:8, which says: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Jesse applied this truth while leading his men.

He was always concerned about the Marines that were assigned to his team. Jesse wanted to know that they were appreciated and that he really cared. He would tell me, “I do not have to yell and scream at the Marines in order to get them to work for me. I am firm, but fair. People will work for you if you lead by example and show them that you really care.” He said that he wanted the Marines to follow him out of admiration, and not out of obligation. I believe that Jesse left a fresh fragrance wherever he went, just like the fresh fragrance after gentle rain. He later told me he that wanted to make a difference and do something extraordinary that people would not forget and that would glorify God.

When we went to the ceremony at Arlington, one of the gentlemen, they had told my daughter earlier that Jesse had switched out with someone else. And then the gentleman who was there overhead my daughter tellin’ another Marine. She said, “I heard my brother was killed in place of another Marine and that he took his place.” And the guy said to her, “Who told you that?” And she said, “Another Marine.” And he broke down and started cryin’ and said, “I’m that man. I’m so sorry. I am so sorry, please.” So, I told him, I said, “Look, this was not your fault. God allowed it and so, I’m not blaming you, because God could have stopped it.”

And Jesse had told me, you know, before going over, he said, “Mom, I’m not married; I don’t have any children.” He said, “I would rather sacrifice my life for someone who’s married.” He also told me, he said, “I had a dream that I’m gonna be either wounded or killed.” He said, “But I’m still goin’.” He said, “I want to make a difference.”

But he just kept on saying how sorry he was. But later on, you know, his wife was there. I met his wife. So, I was delighted to see her and the child. And every year that September rolls around, I thank God, because that child is, you know, has her daddy

End of Phone Call

Jim: What a powerful story of bravery and courage, a man that thought it through and said, “I’m single. This other man has a family.” And there’s no greater show of courage than that, to say, “I want that man to come home alive, because he has something big to live for.” Man, for working here at Focus on the Family, that speaks to me. He knew, even a young man, he knew what he was doing there potentially, giving up his life for a husband and a father. I want to be able to walk into work every day thinkin’ like that. I’d be willing to do that for a young father or a young husband. That’s the kind of sacrifice that we’re honoring today on Memorial Day.

John: And certainly our thanks to Janice and to all who called and shared with us these incredible stories. And for follow up, you might get the CD or download and share that with your children, with family members. This has been such an inspirational collection of calls today.

Jim: As part of our Memorial Day special, we also heard from family members who lost loved ones during the Vietnam War. Back then, I was just a kid. I was born in 1961, so the boys that were goin’ off, the young men that were going off were 10 to 15 years older than I was–young men like Patrick Murphy.

Phone Calls:

Joann: I met Patrick Murphy when a freshman in college and he and I became really good friends. We shared a common major, social science, but I could see that he was troubled in some way and this was in the height of the Vietnam war era. As we became closer and he told me about his hesitation about being in school when others were giving up their lives and their dreams, to go to Vietnam, to fight for our country even though it was not a popular war, I was not surprised then during our sophomore year when he said to me during a class that he had signed up and that he would be leaving school soon so he could go and fight overseas.

It was about a year later that we got word that Patrick had given up his life for the cause. And I don’t know why that has stayed with me all this time. He was the only person I knew as a friend, as a loved one, who had died in Vietnam. But all this time later, whenever I visit our nation’s capital, I always make a visit to the Vietnam War Memorial.

Robert: I’m calling on behalf of two of my friends that I went to high school with that were killed in the Vietnam War—Doug Harp, U.S. Marine, killed in 1965, Capt. Tom Reeser, Air Force pilot, flew B-52s, killed over Cambodia, I think it was 1971. I was blessed in 1961 to have played on a football team that was ranked in some polls No. 1 in the country, No. 2 in the country. Doug and Tom were both all-state all Americans and (Weeping) couldn’t have been better people. [I’ve] still got the pain in my heart for ’em. Anyway, this goes out for them.

Vicki: I’d like to pay tribute to my uncle Bernard Propson. He died in Cambodia in about 1970. One of my earliest childhood memories is of his funeral. He was Green Beret, so they carried his casket to the cemetery. It was the first time I saw my father cry and what I always remember, when I hear Taps being played, I remember that sound and it has been forever put into my memory.

(Music: Taps played on a trumpet)

End of Phone Calls

Jim: And at most military funerals, there’s a flag gently waving in the breeze. It’s a gentle reminder from God that in the midst of loss and pain, that He’s still with us. In fact the lyrics to the song “Taps,” which you just heard, ends with the words, “God is nigh.” What a comforting reminder for a soldier, because when one man dies so that another can be free, it’s a vivid example of what Christ did for each of us.

Those in the Armed Forces are human beings just like us, yet the task they’ve been assigned is one that requires superhuman ability and has risks and danger, as we’ve heard on this Memorial Day. Military families have this special bond between them. They know what it means to give it all and to sacrifice it all. Still too often, death takes them by surprise.

Phone Call:

Ann: We were stationed in Camp Compton and my husband had already done his first deployment to Iraq in the initial invasion of 2003. And we got some new neighbors in our cul-de-sac, and one of them being Brent and Amy Morrell. None of us had kids at that point. We all had dogs. The dogs are what brought us together. Every morning and every evening we would bring our dogs out into the backyard and let ’em loose and they would all go run and play together. And the one thing I would always remember about Brent Morrell, is that he would come out every morning and kiss his wife goodbye before he went to work—every morning. None of the other guys did that; only Brent did that.

He was a big guy. He was a no-joke Marine. He was in recon, so that meant he was tougher than even the rest of the infantry guys. He was muscles and he was big and he had red hair and blue eyes, but a great smile.

Well, when Brent was about to deploy, we all went to their house to have a barbecue. And something about it, he went to open up the grill to make burgers for all of us and a mouse jumped out of the grill. And I never say a man scream like a girl, dancin’ around like I did Brent Morrell. That was the funniest thing I think I ever saw, a 6’4″ guy, being reduced to a 2′ little pansy. It was hilarious.

Anyway, Brent was a great guy and he went off for his deployment. I’ll never forget the day when I stepped outside the door that I saw the chaplain’s car and the guy in his uniform (Crying) at Amy’s house. I’ll never forget that day. And I fell down to my knees and I just sobbed, because the only time you see a guy in a uniform come to the door with a chaplain is when somebody’s died. We found out later that he received the Navy Cross as a result of him trying to take care of his men. He died for self-sacrifice. He’s a great Marine.

And being a military wife and having my husband go through many combat tours, I have known a lot of good men die young. And the one thing I think that people don’t realize is that when you support your troops, it doesn’t mean you support war. It means that you support the troops and these men would do anything. They sacrificed their own lives for your freedom, for my freedom and they sacrificed their lives for their brothers.

End of Phone Call

Closing:

John: Ann Everett, sharing her thoughts about the late Brent Morel and so powerfully telling us why it’s important to remember the sacrifice that Brent and thousands of others have made.

Jim: And let’s face it, you know, thinking about death is not what we want to do as human beings. We don’t want to talk about it. We are uncomfortable with it. But I want to play one last comment from Ann Everett, who we just heard. She shares another story about why it’s important to reflect on the lives of these soldiers in the first place.

Phone Call:

Ann: A couple of the moms would come to the homecoming to see all their sons’ friends come home (Crying) and I would just stand therewith moms and hold their hands. And we always had a funeral ceremony afterwards when the men came home.

And at first, my husband thought that was kinda dumb. I think he said “dumb,” because it was just so stressful, because he said they already did a service overseas. But what he didn’t realize is, that all of us at home hadn’t had a chance to mourn together with our Marines.

And later on in his career, he had the opportunity to be the person who does the knocking on the door, so he was the one that had to inform the families that they lost a Marine or that their Marine got injured. And that’s when he saw the importance of having those funerals, of having those memorial services post-combat.

This is truly a brotherhood and I wouldn’t trade this life for anything else, but I sure wouldn’t say it’s easy. This is our calling and this is our ministry. This is the Marine Corps.

End of Phone Call

Jim: Not only is it the Marine Corp, but it’s the United States Armed Forces. I hope this program encouraged you. And if you see somebody in line in uniform, thank them.I’ve tried to do something a little different; I’ll often buy the coffee that they’ve just ordered. Do something to say thank you for what they do for all of us. And may I express from all of us here at Focus on the Family, our heartfelt gratitude for your service and your willingness to die for our country if needed. Thank you.

John: And thank you for listening today. You can get the free download of our program at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.

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