By Andy Kriege, YSN
Memorial Day is a time to honor and remember each of the men and women who have served our country faithfully. We salute all those who effectively gave a blank check payable to the rest of us, for an amount up to and including their lives.
Maybe they didn’t see action during wartime, or never served near hostile enemies, but the fact that they would willingly give their lives, if called upon, means that they all should be honored and remembered on Memorial Day and every day.
Toby Keith summarized the sentiment in this verse from his 2003 song “American Soldier”:
And I will always do my duty
No matter what the price
I’ve counted up the cost
I know the sacrifice
Oh, and I don’t want to die for you
But if dyin’s asked of me
I’ll bear that cross with honor
‘Cause freedom don’t come free
In this first of a three-part series honoring those among us who served, we are sharing just a couple of the many honorable people in our extended AVB/BrandSource family who answered the call of duty.
To those in uniform serving today and to those who have served in the past, we honor you and thank you for your sacrifice.
Marty Winchell, owner of Thompson Appliance & Furniture in Oneida, N.Y., and president of the North Atlantic Region, looks back on his days in the U.S. Navy proudly. Reflecting on the upcoming holiday, he said, “Memorial Day is a time we take to honor the fallen from the wars our country has fought. They paid the ultimate price so our country can have the freedoms that we love.”
Winchell typically spends some time over the Memorial Day weekend with members from his American Legion post, walking through local cemeteries and placing flags on the graves of fallen soldiers and the veterans who have passed. “Before our city parade, we read the names of our local brothers who were killed in action from all wars, including my own uncle. The parade ends at our Legion, where we provide refreshments and live music for the rest of the evening.”
Winchell’s military duty included time served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. His family’s legacy of service to our country continued with his son Matthew, who followed his dad into the Navy and served in Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
It was Jan. 31, 1968, and 20-year-old Sgt. Ronald Harper, future owner of Quality Appliance in Waite Park, Minn., was guarding the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, when the sky lit up with explosives and all hell broke loose. In the middle of the firefight, he was able to secure the doors of the embassy and give aid to his wounded fellow Marines. For hours he could hear the voices of enemy combatants seeking to break into the building and take it over, but he hung on and the attempt by the enemy to take over the embassy was ultimately thwarted.
That was the first night of the Tet Offensive, a turning point in the Vietnam War, marked by orchestrated attacks throughout U.S.-backed South Vietnam by the Viet Cong.
Despite the wounds he received in the assault, Harper helped prevent the Embassy from falling into enemy hands and helped save the lives of the civilians inside. He was later awarded a Bronze Star for his actions.
“I felt it was my duty,” Harper recalled. “I was always very patriotic. It was in my heart all my life. I loved my country. I still do.”
Clearly, patriotism runs in the family. Harper’s son Nathan, a fellow Marine, is the latest in a long line of Harper family patriots, including a grandad who served in World War I, and uncles who did tours of duty in World War II and Korea.
Asked about the approaching holiday, Harper described Memorial Day as “a beautiful day to reflect.”
“I feel very sad,” he continued. “I think about all those young men whose lives were cut tragically short. When my son went to Iraq [in 2009], it was on my mind daily,” he added, choking back tears.
Our Memorial Day tribute to members continues tomorrow.
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.