I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism.
— Bob Riley
Memorial Day, the holiday observed every year on the last Monday of May, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the war. Since that war, there have been many wars where endless American blood has been shed to keep our country free. This Memorial Day we have the privilege to remember and honor those gallant men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice—their lives—so that we can enjoy those freedoms we are blessed with today.
In the film American Sniper, Bradley Cooper, who plays the role of Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, makes a statement that symbolizes the true meaning of the American way: “I’ve lived the literal meaning of the ‘land of the free’ and ‘home of the brave.’ It’s not corny for me. I feel it in my heart. I feel it in my chest. Even at a ball game, when someone talks during the anthem or doesn’t take off his hat, it pisses me off. I’m not one to be quiet about it either.”
On a personal note, I was a private in the National Guard. In my era, the war in Vietnam was the news of the day. In hindsight, I wish I could say that I went to Vietnam and was brave like Chris Kyle. But in all honesty, I never went to Vietnam, and I was anything but a model soldier. Here’s an excerpt from a chapter entitled “The Army Way” from my life’s story, Hollywood’s Chosen.
When I first walked into the barracks, I received a lot of flak from the men. I guess I did look a bit out of place. I will not repeat the humiliating names I was called. At six foot three inches and weighing in at a mere 135-pounds in my regular army uniform, well, surrounded by paratroopers, I was a sight to behold. It was obvious the men were insulted that I would be assigned to an airborne unit, and they demanded an explanation as to why I, a National Guardsman, would be assigned to their unit. I wished more than anything that I had an answer.
Prior to their being assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, many of the men had already served in Vietnam as a part of the famous 101st Airborne Division (better known as the “Screaming Eagles”). They wore their pants bloused in their boots, and they looked and acted like they had stepped right out of a Hollywood war movie.
I knew I had to do something to get on their good side. I hated not being accepted by the men. So, instead of arm wrestling, I decided to whip out my playing cards and show the men some tricks. I could make magic with a deck of cards. And it worked. I lured them in with my card tricks. Ultimately, however, it was my style of gambling that really won them over. I owned my seat at the high-stakes card table proudly. I spent all my free time playing cards in the barracks with those physically fit men of steel known as high-rolling, card-loving paratroopers. Mission accomplished. Well, almost. . . .
Trivia: In what war did the most Americans die? How many died?
Answer: Civil War; 750,000