Focus on the Family Broadcast

Honoring the Fallen on Memorial Day

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

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

Jamie: Corporal Benjamin Keith Rauschenberger, is 25 years old, was killed April 15th, 2013. He was four and a half years in the marines. We love you and miss you. And we can’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, uh, for this country.

Evelyn: I just want to honor my daddy that was, uh, killed in France December the 3rd, 1944. I still remember him and think about him. His name was Crandall Pierson.

John Fuller: Welcome to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And today, a special Memorial Day addition of the program to pay tribute to and remember those who have not only served in our military, but who gave their lives so you and I could enjoy the freedom that we have today in America. Courageous men and women of honor, brave and trustworthy men, like Milburn Manning.

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

Jim Daly: This is one of the stories we have for you today on Focus on the Family. Uh, John, every Memorial Day is a good opportunity to pause and reflect on our country’s great heritage and remember those who’ve, uh, made the ultimate sacrifice. A few years ago, we asked people to call us and record stories about their family members and friends who’ve served our country and given their lives.

John: Right. And we received hundreds of calls. Each one, uh, very heartfelt and special. Remembering loved ones. And we’re gonna hear those stories. And then, near the end of the show, we’re gonna hear from a World War II veteran, 101 years old, as he remembers fallen comrades he served with. Unfortunately, some military families don’t know the details of how their family member died until months or years down the road, when they might get an unexpected phone call. Here’s Allen Folsum, who had to make one of those calls.

Allen: I, uh, served in Iraq in 2006 as a medic for the Air Force. And one night we received a bunch of choppers from an IED explosion that had taken out a Bradley vehicle. And, uh, there were several wounded, uh, marines on board. And we were working feverishly on one young man who was about 19, 20. He, unfortunately, was dying and there was no need to continue life-saving measures. I felt compelled, as a Christian, for some reason, God was telling me, take this kid’s hand and pray with 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 as if God was telling me, “This is why I have you here.” And I took that, and I, 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 and his dad. And I left a message. And I said, “Would it be okay if I spoke with you? I was probably the last person to see your son alive.” They called me back and I spoke with his mother. And I 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 brave and so frightened. He would reach out to me and say, ‘Mommy, please hold my hand. Please hold my hand, Mommy.’” 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 it to be known that if there’s anything that I’m to be remembered for, it is for that.

John: Other families may have only been notified that their family was listed MIA, Missing in Action. Then, one day, the government gives them news. And here’s Carla sharing about her brother’s story.

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

Thomas: This story is about John Kenneth Day. Ken Day is the deceased relative of dear 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 Uphausen, Holland. He single-handedly engaged several tanks using 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 had 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 a phone call no parent wants to receive. My daughter-in-law called to tell us that our youngest son, Sergeant 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 though he wo- 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, Sergeant Brennan Gibson.

John: What remarkable courage to stare death in the face like that. And, uh, just think of how many families never find out what happened to their loved one. Here’s another touching and courageous story from Janice, who lost her son Jesse in Afghanistan.

Janice: My son is Captain Jesse Melton III, United States Marine Corp. He served in Marine Corp for 11 years. And Jesse was killed in Afghanistan on, uh, September the 9th, 2008. Uh, but Jesse learned from an early, uh, 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 the Lord require of you, to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you God?”

Jesse applied this truth while leading his men. He was always concerned about the marines that were assigned his team. Jesse wanted to them know that they 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 fragrant wherever he went, just like the fresh fragrance after a gentle rain. He later told me that he wanted to make a difference and do something extraordinary that people would not forget and that will glorify God. When we went to the ceremony at Arlington, one of the gentleman, they had told my daughter earlier that Jesse had switched out with someone else, and then the gentleman who was there overheard my daughter telling another marine. She’s, “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 crying. And said, “I’m that man. I’m so sorry. I am so sorry. Please.” So, I told him, I said, “Y- 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, e- 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.” And 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 going.” He said, “I wanna to make a difference.” But, um, so be-, so be-, he just kept on saying how sorry he was. But, later on, you know, uh, 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.

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.”

John: Hm.

Jim: Man, 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.” Whew, that really fulfills my heart for what we do here at Focus. The family matters. It speaks to me. Uh, he knew even as a young man, that what he was doing there, potentially giving up his life for a husband and a father. And I want to be able to walk into work every day thinking like that. And, uh, that’s the kind of sacrifice that we’re honoring today on Memorial Day.

John: Well, 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 it with your children or family members. And details are at As part of our Memorial Day special today, we also heard from family members who lost loved ones during the Vietnam war. Back then, I was just a young boy, as young men, uh, 10, 12, 15 years older than me were headed off to war. Uh, young men like Patrick Murphy.

Joann: I met Patrick Murphy when I was 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, 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, US Marine, killed in 1965, Captain Tom Reeser, Air Fort, uh, pilot, flew B52s, 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, number one in the country, number two in the country. Doug and Tom were both all-state, all-Americans, and couldn’t met better people. Still got the pain in my heart for them. Anyway, this goes out to them.

Vicki: I would 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 a 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.

Jim: Uh, John, I’ve been able to go to Arlington Cemetery and it has happened more than once, that off in the distance where someone is being buried, that, uh, there’s a flag gently waving in that breeze. Um, and man, it is a gentle reminder from God that in the midst of loss and pain, He’s still with us. In fact, the lyrics to that song, Taps, as it played even there at Arlington, ends with the words, “God is nigh.” What a comforting reminder for a soldier, because when one man dies so another can be free, it’s a vivid example of what Christ did for each one of us. And those in the armed forces are human beings, just like you and me, yet, they’ve been given a super difficult assignment, full of danger and risk.

Uh, military families have a very special bond between them. They know what it means to give it all, to sacrifice everything. Uh, still too often, death takes them by surprise. I’m sure nobody thinks it’ll happen to me. And, um, what a sobering thought.

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 Morel. None of us had kids at that point. We all had dogs. The dogs are what got us together every morning and every evening. We would bring our dogs out into the backyard and let them lose, and they would all go run and play together. And the one thing I would always remember about Brent Morel, 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. Um, so that meant he was tougher than even the rest of the infantry guys. Um, 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, and, um, huh, funny thing about it was he went to go open up the grill to make burgers for all of us, and a mouse jumped out of the grill.

And I never saw a man scream like a girl, dancing around like I did Brent Morel. That was the funniest thing I think I ever saw. (laughs) A six-foot four guy being reduced to a two-foot little pansy. It was hilarious. Uh, uh, anyway, Brent was a great guy. He went off for his deployment. I’ll never forget that, uh, when I stepped outside the door that I saw the, um, the chaplain’s car and, and the guy in his uniform 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, um, my husband go through many combat tours, I have, 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, doesn’t mean you support war. It means that you support the troops. And these men will do anything. They sacrifice their own lives for your freedom, for my freedom. And they sacrifice their lives for their brothers.

John: Hm. 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: You know John, it’s hard for us to think about death. It makes us uncomfortable. But it’s something we all must face. I hope these stories have caused you to see life differently, and to respect those who’ve given so much for us and our country. Uh, here at the end, I want to honor one of our veterans who made it back home from World War II. Gineth Hudson is 101 years old. He had just learned to drive before the draft. So he was moved from machine gun duty to the motor pool in the Philippines. He recalls the losses and the sadness of war. And his Christian faith, well that carried him through.

Gineth: I r-, I was a teenager when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. And attended church faithfully. I didn’t want to go to war. I didn’t like war. But, I knew that the only way to stop the enemy was over power them. And fortunately, uh, I didn’t have to do m- much of the actual frontline combat. But I worked behind the lines. But it was hard to, uh, take it when you’d pick up the dead and carry them to the cemetery. And knowing that they would never get to go home again, even the wounded, you, you didn’t… I’d carry sometimes one across the hood, one behind me on stretchers to get them to the hospital or, or take them to the cemetery. War is terrible.

Uh, uh, uh, after I was put in the motor pool, the squad leader and the boy that took my place in the squad were both killed. But they had set up their camp, and, uh, the Japanese had cannons in caves and they rolled those cannons out and, and fire into the troops. And, so, uh, a lot of the boys were killed during that type of… And, uh, the one that was the squad leader and the one that replaced me was both killed. He, uh, the boy was hit in the middle of the back with a artillery shell.

Right where I was, I could hear that happening, but what do you think I could do about it. Shortly before the war was over, Jara- Japan surrendered, I was wounded by a grenade attack upon our position. I lie in the hospital, I think about a week, and, uh, 1960 something, I got a sh- shrapnel out of my left shin and other parts of my body since then, just, uh, last year or two, got some out of my arm that little, look like little flat pieces of, of metal about the size of a dime.

Jim: Private Hudson’s Christian faith played an important role during his time in the Philippines.

Gineth: I carried the New Testament, and, and, uh, course I had my other Bible, total Bible. And any, anytime where I wa- had the opportunity to do so, I would, I wondered if I would be useful, but, uh, I wasn’t called into ministry until after I was married. Psalm 23, I learned that one, uh, I was able to quote it, and so if I didn’t have a Bible in my hands, I had, had that.

“The Lord is my Shepard I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pasture. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness. And even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, and He, He prepareth a table before me in the presence of my enemies. And He anointed my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Jim: Gineth Hudson, what an amazing man. He and his brother both made if home from the war, while so many others did not. He went on to serve as a pastor for more than 50 years. And we want to honor him today and the memory of those he served with in the Greatest Generation. Uh, I hope this program has encouraged you, uh, the next time you see someone in uniform thank them for their service. I often like to pay for their coffee if we’re in line together. Find some way to say thanks for what they do for us. And, um, may I express from all of us here at Focus on the Family, our heartfelt gratitude for all who have sacrifice for us, and for the freedoms we enjoy.

John: Mm-hmm. Well, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller inviting you back tomorrow as we, once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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