Saturday, May 23, 2009

Two of the Many

On this Memorial Day, 2009, we should all pause to reflect on the many sacrifices that have assured our rights and freedoms in America. Some will enjoy a Memorial Day parade and perhaps attend a memorial service at a local cemetery. Volunteers, across the land, will be placing flags on the graves of a million or more veterans—many of them in the 128 National Cemeteries—and flying flags from their homes. It has become a fitting tradition that on this day we honor those who perished during time of war. We tend to focus on what we have gained through their sacrifice, but we ought to remember as well what we have lost. These gallant men and women were among the best that our country had to offer on the altar of peace. It boggles the mind to think what more we could have done with the benefit of their presence these many years.

William Edward Cramsie and Robert John Rooney were clearly exceptional young men. They had endured much to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June of 1943 and to earn their wings in the Army Air Corps. They were Irishmen and proud of their heritage. They also were room mates at the academy and close friends. They served with honor and distinction during WWII flying twin-engine attack bombers in the 416th Bomb Group. Both died in action tragically, and needlessly, under heart-wrenching circumstances. These were men that could have climbed almost any mountain and certainly would have been leaders in any field of endeavor that they chose. Their loss is striking to us, but must have been monumental at the time for those who knew, loved and admired them. Although we can look back into their lives and reconstruct events, or postulate actions and emotions, it is a feeble attempt at best to recapture the essence of who they were and what we have lost. The best that we can do today is to honor their memory as a very small tribute to them and to the many that they represent.