Sunday was Memorial Day, and I want to say thank you to somebody I never met, and never even heard of until last Monday.
One of my many idiosyncrasies is that I like to walk through cemeteries. I like to look at the headstones, and I especially like to visit the graves of veterans.
Last Monday, when we observed the “official” Memorial Day holiday, Peggy and I were in Lenox, Massachusetts. And so, I convinced her to give me the time to make one of my cemetery walks.
Lenox has several beautiful cemeteries. One of my favorites is behind the “Church on the Hill”, because it contains the graves of a number of Revolutionary War soldiers. I make it my business to visit that place when we’re in Lenox, particularly to pay my respects to Maj. Gen. John Paterson, a great patriot who served in the Continental Army for the entire duration of the Revolution.
This Memorial Day, though, I chose the small cemetery of St. Ann’s Catholic Church. I love St. Ann’s for many reasons, but one reason is the plaque that’s inside the front door. It honors Fr. William Davitt, an Army chaplain and member of the Knights of Columbus, who was the last American officer killed in action in World War I.
The church cemetery is a beautiful place, on the side of a hill, with well-placed rows of graves. Family members tend their loved ones’ graves, and many have beautiful flowers.
As I walked through the graveyard, I was struck by how many sons of St. Ann went off to war, particularly World War II. Men of every national background, all united in their faith and in their service to our country.
One grave really arrested my attention. It was the last resting place of Sgt. John M. Fuore, who died at the age of 28. Based on the information on his gravestone, and with a little internet research, I found the following.
Sgt. Fuore served in the Navy in World War II, and then must have been re-drafted for service in Korea. He fought with the 2nd Infantry Division, in a Recon company. That’s dangerous work. During the brutal winter of 1950-51, the division fought a tough rear-guard action against Chinese forces that had intervened in the war. To give you an idea of the kind of fighting they endured, the 2nd ID had 18 men awarded the Medal of Honor in Korea.
That’s not as important as the one key fact on the gravestone in Lenox. On February 14, 1951, Sgt. Fuore was killed in action.
I never met Sgt. Fuore, and I’m not related to him in any way. Here was a man who spent most of his adulthood in uniform, serving to protect my country – to protect me. He gave “the last full measure of devotion” that Lincoln spoke of at Gettysburg. He left his family and his hometown, to meet his fate in a frozen field in the north of Korea.
As I stood by Sgt. Fuore’s grave, I was deeply moved, even as I’m deeply moved as I sit here in my office writing these words. All I could do was offer my small tribute to a fallen American soldier. I snapped a crisp salute, and went back to my life, the life won for me by countless men like Sgt. Fuore.
Thanks, Sarge. Thanks to all the other men like you. Thank you very much.