The Ultimate Price

Memorial Hall
Memorial Hall

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. Memorial Day isn’t about Veterans, servicemen and women, parades, flyovers, sales or backyard barbecues. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of any of those groups/things. Those are all good, except for sales, I won’t be shopping today. Memorial Day is for the men and women who died while serving their country. My country.

For over 30 years, I’ve driven by the building shown here and thought about taking a tour. The building has served this town in a number of ways. It has been home to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. It served as the initial office of the Military Airport that became Bradley Field and later, Bradley International Airport. Bradley, by the way was Second Lieutenant Eugene M. Bradley, who died during a training accident in August 1941.

It’s a sad way to obtain recognition.

Other things in this small town are named for soldiers who paid the ultimate price.

The Smalley Brothers Post of the VFW is named after Cpl. Francis E. Smalley and Pvt. Edward F. Smalley, brothers who died at Normandy about 10 days apart during WWII. We look back on the Normandy invasion, D-Day, as a major turning point in WWII. At the time of their deaths, I’m not sure the Smalley brothers had anything approaching a clear view of the end of that battle, let alone the end of the war.

Smalley Brothers
Unimaginable loss, two sons in less than 10 days.

The road that Maddie and I walk down almost every Saturday is Chapman Way, named after TSgt John Chapman, the first service person from this town to die in Afghanistan. He died in March 2002. I remember when they put that sign up.

Memorial Hall, like so many Memorial Halls in the northeast, was built after the Civil War. According to the Connecticut Historical Society:

MEMORIAL HALL, Windsor Locks, is significant historically because it was built to be quarters for the J.H. Converse Post, No. 67, Grand Army of the Republic, and has served over the years as a center for memorial activities for those who served in all wars.

J.H. Converse Post was organized in 1884. It was named after Major Joseph H. Converse, who was killed in action at Cold Harbor, Virginia, on June 4, 1864.

The building has a curious history that includes a variety of service roles, a legal fight to prevent it from becoming Windsor Locks Town Hall, and a devastating fire that gutted the interior of the granite building in June 1974. The interior was rebuilt, and the building continues to serve Veterans organizations in town. These organizations sponsor many activities to preserve the history and educate our residents of the significant people that served our country, from this little town.

If you’re in the US, I hope you are enjoying the first major long holiday weekend of 2016, but I hope you will take a moment to remember the brave men and women who paid the ultimate price to preserve the freedom we enjoy.

42 thoughts on “The Ultimate Price

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  1. Thank you for sharing part of the military history of your town; I’d forgotten that it is Memorial Day in America; here in Switzerland, we don’t have such a day (unless you are in Murten on 22 June, for a commemoration of a battle in 1476 in Murten!).
    Switzerland was surrounded by hostiles during WW2, and we guarded our borders rigorously, while accepting many Jews and wounded allied soldiers; it was known that Hitler planned to waltz over Switzerland once he’d conquered his big prize, England – we were considered easy pickings. But I think he grossly underestimated both the English tenacity, and the stubborn independence of the Swiss. I’m very grateful that a Memorial Day is not necessary here… but I honour those who gave their lives in the countries surrounding us that made that possible.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for adding a little more history today. Independence and freedom go hand in hand. I wish we didn’t keep adding to the list of wars over here, but I am proud of and grateful to all of the men and women who died in service to our country.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a great read for such an important day in our country’s history. Sadly, many people in our country today do not understand the difference between Armed Forces Day (honoring those serving in our military), Veteran’s Day (honoring those who have served in our military) and Memorial Day, today, when we honor the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in their service to our country.

    As we have witnessed the lack of respect for parents, teachers first responders and law enforcement officials, we now see a lack of respect for our military and an unwillingness for our youth to serve their country.

    As a Vietnam-era veteran, I can understand if we have dumbed down society in a way that people don’t understand our military holidays, but I will never understand nor accept the intolerance we have for a military system that has kept us safe, secure and free to do whatever we want to do today.

    However, it would be nice if people would take time – as you have down here – to put names with the pictures of the people they wrote about in those news clippings or document in our many conflicts such as Normandy and Pearl Harbor.

    When we have a president that goes to Hiroshima to place a wreath at a memorial in Japan, and then does not have the time or consideration to go to Pearl Harbor and honor the men and women who died there, then it says a lot about this new attitude to disrespect our heroes. Unfortunately we see it everyday in the way our VA Healthcare system abuses our veterans.

    There is so much to be thankful for today, but so much moe we need to do for our military services and our veterans.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Bob. One of the sad parts of the tour that I took last week was when one of the tour guides mentioned that this little town used to have 7 Scout troops. Today, there is one. I wonder if the kids playing soccer on the field in the picture have any idea why that girls is there. My father used to stop as we walked by the memorial in the town I grew up in. He served in the Pacific in WWII but he would point to the names of the men who didn’t come home. There are so many little towns with a dozen or so men and women who served but never returned.

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  3. This day has always hit home with me not only because of those who have died on our behalf but because I lost two uncles. When they were killed in WWII, the name of the local VFW was changed to include their name because my grandparents were the only ones to have lost two sons. The VFW long ago moved to a larger town, but I still remember seeing that sign and feeling proud of their ultimate sacrifice. Nice post, Dan. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. I missed a bunch of comments yesterday. I’m sorry to hear about your uncles, that’s very sad. It is something to be proud of, but it must have been very hard on your grandparents and family.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing these historical and thoughtful words and photos with us, Dan. I am in gratitude for all the brave women and men who paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedom. Thank you for taking a stand not to go shopping today.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was a very meaningful way to gently remind us of the reason behind Memorial Day, Dan. It is true, even I tend to include those serving and who endangered their lives, even if they did not die.
    President Obama presenting the wreath for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier impressed my 7 year old grandson this morning at 11:00 am. (CNN) The mournful “Taps” playing and drums tapping out a beat for soldiers to march by, made Micah stop and look up. He went and sat by my Mom, his great Grammie O. She had tears so he got concerned. I felt memories of many Memorial Days past when I was in band and how only about 20 to 25 band members showed up to the cemetery in my home town to play a couple of songs. While the final Taps was always a trumpet or cornet solo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Robin. Taps is always hard to listen o, but it’s comforting to know that the person/people are being thought of and honored. I’ve sometimes gotten the military honor holidays confused, and it’s hard not to want to recognize those who are serving now, especially in a town like ours. There are two military bases near the airport and I run into active service men and women all the time. I try to extend little niceties to them, but when you go to the memorials, that’s when you’re reminded of those who died. Sharing those moments with your children and grandchildren keeps those memories alive and continues to honor those brave men and women. Thank you for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Dan, thanks for sharing this post and your thoughts on Memorial Day. You can imagine that it is a difficult topic for me :-). I grew up in a Germany where the army was only allowed to stay within the country borders and we were taught how negative an impact an army can have if the political elite decides to become a dictatorship. My father didn’t serve because of his back problems but both my parents taught us that a war is no solution to anything. My brother and I were not allowed to have toy guns or any war-like toys. I am still searching for that reality where we do not have to solve conflicts with killing our own sons and daughters of to defend our countries. However, I am very aware that you cannot solve a problem like so-called IS, the Taliban etc without armed conflict. Even though I believe that a lot of these sort of conflicts could be prevented if politicians would do something before hand. The Taliban were used by the US against the then UDSSR as the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Did they save Afghanistan in the end?

    The question is for me: Is that the right approach? How many conflicts could have been prevented if world powers wouldn’t use some extremist groups to fight one another. I also believe that soldiers are used by the powerful and weapons industry to keep their power and if soldiers come back injured both in body and mind they do not get the help they deserve. That is not right in my opinion. The whole topic makes me feel very uncomfortable. I find it extremely difficult because I cannot see any army in that black and white image they are often depicted. Is my grandfather a bad person because he happend to be born in Germany just before the second world war and he served Germany? Does he deserve less commemoration because he was born on the wrong side? Is he less worth because of that? Strangely this topic gets more and more emotional for me the older I get. I am not sure if someone born in the United States can understand my difficulties with this topic and maybe I should just hold my tongue. But maybe it is important that I voice how I experience any commemoration of wars and what soldiers have to do, what they suffer and how they are perceived.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this comment. I am sorry to have triggered a reaction you might rather have avoided. You raise many good points. I do agree that so much bloodshed could be avoided with the application of better political thought (if that’s not an oxymoron). Better thinking after WWI could possibly have allowed us to avoid WWII. I don’t have those answers. As for the poor treatment of yesterday’s or today’s soldiers, I think it’s inexcusable. These men and women were doing a job we (whoever we are) asked them to do. I don’t hold individual soldiers responsible for the decisions their leaders made, at least up to a point. I do think there’s a point where humanity needs to take over.

      I can’t imagine how these issues affect you, but I can remember the emotionally and politically charged Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day celebrations during and immediately after the Viet Nam War. These aren’t easy things, and I think that’s good. War should never be an easy decision to make and a country going to war should never be easy for its citizens to accept. Even if it is the answer, we should always ask the hard questions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your understanding. No, don’t worry I didn’t want to avoid it. I would have stopped reading your post and wouldn’t have answered. It is more a question of making my mind up about something we might not be able to make our minds up if that makes any sense. I like what you said about “humanity taking over”. The EU is in parts a result of people in Europe saying “never again” after WWII and their humanity took over. It is sad that this thinking seems to vanish the longer the war is over no matter how much we commemorate. But that’s probably human. We all react differently to the problems we are facing. But I can’t stop feeling that people like Trump, Farage and however their names are have some similarities with those in our past who brought war over us. I feel in Germany before WWII it was similar situation: people were unsatisfied with politicians, they were looking for someone whom they hoped would be honest and understand their situation and those politicians took advantage of that. it frightens me to see all those similarities. And I am probably a bit more sensitive to all that considering how much GB discusses staying in the EU or not and what might be in store for me if they leave. Well, maybe I am mixing things up. But you are right: we need to ask the difficult questions because if we do not do it who will?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. People forget and people don’t study history. We have stock market crashes and mortgage market crashes over and over because the people working in those markets weren’t there the last time they fell and they ignore the previous experience. They listen to people like Trump because they are masters of identifying with the audience and hating the things they hate, whether they actually do or not. Many politicians work that way.It’s easy to get away with because most people are too lazy to do the simple research required to reveal the flaws or the lies. Selecting a leader should be a more serious process. I fear that, this year in the US, we haven’t left ourselves a good choice.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I totally agree. That is probably one reason I write and I blog :-) at least I try to do something. Good luck to your elections it really seems to be a question of the lesser evil no matter who can be voted for in the end :-)

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Makes me think of the Twilight Zone episode “The Passersby”, with that long procession heading down the road to Eternity. God bless those who make the ultimate sacrifice. Good post, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Paul. I thought of that episode. I was tempted to include a picture of the Lincoln Memorial, but I settled for the Lincoln exhibit in our local memorial. It’s a shame that we have put so many more men and women on that road.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So, so behind my blog reading! Thank you, Dan, for reminding us that Memorial Day is not Veteran’s Day. Of course, I couldn’t miss the moving mention of the two brothers who died in Normandy. This hits home in a big way, more it it true than other wars, even though they are much closer in time, but feel far from my native home. Although the Vietnam War follows the French colonization of this part of Asia. As always great informative post illustrated with great photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Evrlyne. Now there’s a little connection between my adopted home town and your original one. I only learned about these brothers as I was researching this post and touring the building.

      Liked by 1 person

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