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Rusty E. McGuire: Sons & fathers

I remember my father’s struggle when I told him I volunteered to serve in Iraq.

His memory of his friends who did not return from Vietnam consumed his thoughts. He simply supported me, but as a father myself, I understand it is not that simple. Memorial Day is the day that we remember the sacrifice of so many brave Americans who died on the field of honor. From the rebellious farmer who pulled out his musket to tell the King enough is enough, to the professional warrior who voluntarily went into harms way for our Country “all gave some and some gave all.”  

What about the sons and what about the fathers? This Memorial Day, I decided to honor a Roosevelt and a MacArthur. The Roosevelt earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. There were many reasons he could have evaded service to avoid harms way, but when his 4th Infantry Division was assigned to lead the assault at Utah Beach on June 6, 1944, he knew his mission was to lead his troops.

When I mention Theodore Roosevelt, most think of our eccentric President who earned a hero status for leading the Rough Riders to victory on San Juan Hill.  However, I will leave the former President in the history books as I want to tell you about his son and Medal of Honor winner Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Twice BG Roosevelt Jr. requested to go ashore in the first wave on D-Day and twice his superiors denied his verbal requests knowing they would never see him alive again. Only when he put his request in writing was his request approved.  He was the only general to go ashore in the first wave but he organized the attack and breakout on Utah Beach earning our Nations highest award. He fell a month later and is buried beside his brother Quentin, who died in World War I, overlooking Omaha Beach. Two sons of a former President were encouraged to serve by their father and are buried in a foreign land.

There is also the MacArthur who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. At 16, he joined the Army, and at 18, he led a gallant charge against insurmountable odds. During the charge two flag bearers were killed and young MacArthur grabbed the flag and charged the hill rallying his troops to victory. The Army promoted him to full Colonel at 19 and he earned the nickname “the boy colonel.”

When you hear the name MacArthur most of us think of General Douglas MacArthur who kept his promise to return to the Philippines and accepted the Japanese surrender to end World War II. However, the bravery of the “boy colonel” is written on the heroic citation for Arthur MacArthur the father of the World War II general.

So how simple is service for sons and fathers? Sons want to be like their fathers and fathers want to protect their sons. As fathers we realize there are risks to supporting the service of our children. If Arthur MacArthur and President Theodore Roosevelt shielded their sons from combat the soldiers on Utah Beach would not have had a General to lead them in that critical first wave and Douglas MacArthur would not have kept his promise and returned to free the Philippines. As a Nation we would be deprived of the only two father and son combinations to earn our Nations highest honor

– The Congressional Medal of Honor. That is why as a son who is now a father I realize that service is not that simple.

This Memorial Day let us remember all the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who “gave all” making this country the land of the free!

Rusty E. McGuire is Commonwealth’s Attorney of Louisa County and a Major in the Virginia Army National Guard. He served in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

augusta free press
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