MEMORIAL DAY 2011
I was born in 1945 and although female, was named after a boy, a Marine killed by a sniper’s bullet during the mop up of Guam, Billy Belden of Horton, Michigan. A simple small town boy, a friend of my brother, a student of my father, a kid who hung out at my parent’s house, joining them for meals during the depression. I grew up on stories of Billy, Todd Wickins, and the Leggit boys all who enlisted to fight the war. In my heart I am a Marine Family. I have a step-son and a nephew who are inactive Marines.
As a child I remember watching active and inactive Marines marching in their dress blues in the Memorial Day and July Fourth Parades in my home town. Watching the Marine Corps bands performing in various venues, tears always come to my eyes when I hear the Marine Hymn. I learned at an early age that those flashy red stripes running down the seam on their blue pants is not a standard part of the uniform but are “Blood Stripes” earned by having been in combat. An honor to wear and worn with humility. Thanks are due from each of us who stayed home and remain free because they did their duty around the world.
As the years progressed, watching Marines march, slowly the number of Blood Stripes disappeared as the veterans aged and no longer marched. New recruits took their place. By the 50’s you would only see a few of the Marines with those bright red stripes on their pants.
Then came the 60’s and more and more Marines were sent into battle – but that was an era where wearing your uniform was not so popular for the inactive Marines. Actually any uniform was not casually worn because of the reaction of many of the general populace forgetting whose sacrifice permitted them the right to still protest.
The active duty Marines still proudly wore their full dress blues and the number of blood stripes began to increase in numbers – but fewer and fewer citizens knew the significance. They were more concerned with upward mobility, buying the bigger home, the new car, the ‘right’ label clothes than respecting and understanding those blood stripe wearing Marines allowed them to live the good life and keep up with the Jones’.
Over the last few years the percentage of Marines marching wearing blood stripes has increased – way too quickly. When any contingent of Marines march almost every man now wears blood stripes. They have served their time in hell and have gotten home safely, this time.
The other day, I saw on TV the return of an Angel Flight with Marines standing guard for the flag draped casket to be moved for that Marine’s last journey home. All the Marines in attendance wore blood stripes. The Marine Hymn solemnly played and in my living room I stood and cried. Not just for that fallen hero returning home, or for the Wounded Warriors we see regularly on TV, healing from their wounds, but also for Billy, and for all of those who have not only fallen, but served with honor since 10 November 1775.
But on a personal note – especially on this Memorial Day while I remember and honor all services and all who have served our country and defended the Constitution of the United States I especially honor a teenager from a small town in Michigan, who rests I know not where, almost totally forgotten. Thank you for your service. Semper Fi, Billy.