I have worked with Samtec for over four years, and I have enjoyed learning more about being part of an American company. I have been lucky enough to share some of the fun times with you including Independence Day and Thanksgiving. With the approach of Memorial Day, I wanted to spend some time learning more about the more thoughtful and poignant aspects of our shared heritage and how we remember those who have fallen.
Every country commemorates its lost servicemen and women at different times of the year. Here in the UK, on a day we share with Canada, we remember our lost service personnel on November 11th. This is the day in 1918 when the guns fell silent on the Western Front. The Remembrance Day service is a major event in each of the Home Nations’ capitals and around the country as we gather to think about the fallen from our own towns and villages. My new home is close to an active Royal Air Force Station, and last year we were lucky enough to be joined by serving RAF members and to see a flypast of RAF helicopters, thanking us for our support.
In other parts of the world, different days hold significance. In Australia and New Zealand, the date to remember is April 25th. ANZAC Day is named for the combined Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, and it marks the moment of the first landings of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. The ANZACs faced fierce resistance from their Ottoman foes and fought with huge bravery and character. The day now serves to remember the fallen from all conflicts from World War I to Vietnam and beyond. It is hard to overstate the importance of ANZAC Day in forging the identity of the young countries that the soldiers served.
As Memorial Day approached for my US friends, I wanted to look at how fallen Americans are remembered here in the UK. Dotted all over the country are memorials, both large and small, honoring the American soldiers, sailors and airmen who were based here in Britain. Many left our shores to help protect our freedom, but sadly never returned home.
Just a few miles from where I sit is Chalgrove Airfield. Today it is home to Martin Baker, a company that makes some of the best ejection seats in the world. However, the airfield has a long and proud history, including a significant American presence. In the 1940s, the local skies were filled with such iconic airplanes as the Lightning and the remarkable Mosquito. Chalgrove was also a base for the elite Pathfinders of the US Airborne divisions.
The airfield is now home to a plaque that commemorates the service of the brave and hardworking soldiers and airmen who lived there. Interestingly, just a few feet away is another memorial that honors John Hampden, a key personality in the English Civil War. Hampden’s loss at the Battle of Chalgrove in 1643 was a serious setback for the Parliamentarian cause. His reputation for honesty and patriotic opposition to unjust rule later served as inspiration for Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.
Please allow me to join you on Memorial Day in honoring those who fought and fell for our freedom, regardless of where they served. At every remembrance parade in the UK and Canada, and every dawn service for ANZAC Day, you will hear the words of the poet Laurence Binyon:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
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