Thank you for your service. Five simple words that, for many, come with an immeasurable burden.
Each year on Memorial Day, we honor the sacrifice of the millions of men and women of our armed forces who selflessly volunteered and gave their lives to protect the freedoms that we, as Americans, have the privilege to enjoy every day. Memorial Day has carried a solemn reverence since I was young, fortunately not due to direct loss, but because of a little blue 32-page booklet.
In my youth, I attended a summer camp which was founded in 1928 and has a rich tradition of camp alumni that had served in our nation’s military, and many that made the ultimate sacrifice. Every evening, before dinner, the entire camp would line up in front of the Memorial Flagpole. At the base of the flagpole, there is a small cement monument with a placard that reads the names of the 11 camp alumni that had given their lives during World War II. All 150+ campers (age 8-15) would stand at attention and salute the American Flag as ‘Taps’ was played and the flag would be lowered and folded for storage until the next morning, when the ceremony would take place as the flag was raised. One of the names of the placard was that of Sgt. George B. Tullidge, 507th Parachute Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. George Tullidge held a special place in camp lore because at night, before ‘lights out’, each cabin would read a devotional out of a little blue booklet called ‘A Paratroopers Faith’, which George’s mother Anne Archer Tullidge had complied using an assortment of poems, bible verses and philosophical quotes.
On page 3 of the booklet, there is a letter (which I’ve included at the bottom of this post) from George to his little brother Tommy. Without context, it just reads like any other letter you’d expect to get from an older sibling. However, this letter is the last correspondence the Tullidge family would ever receive from George. Just one month later, as part of the D-Day invasion, George would be wounded as he fought bravely to defend the La Fiere Bridge a key position on the road to Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France. As his Bronze Star citation reads: “although wounded in this engagement, he refused to withdraw until the enemy had been completely routed from the area”. George would succumb to his wounds on June 8th, 1944. After George’s death, his mother Anne, printed and distributed the ‘little blue booklet’ to the entire 82nd Airborne Division and continued to print and distribute copies of ‘A Paratrooper Faith’ to American service men and women for over 50 years.
The story of Sgt. George B Tullidge would be a common theme on the opening night of camp each year. Counselors who had attended the camp since their youth would educate the new campers about the original owner of booklet and why we read out of it each night. It was a stark realization for many campers, of the selfless sacrifices made by members of our Military. Since the first time I heard that letter read aloud, I have had a passionate sense of duty to live each day to honor their sacrifice and that of the service men and women who came before and after them.
While we cannot thank them directly, each of us have the privilege today and every day, to honor their memory by lifting each other up and living life to the fullest. As we all begin to gather for Memorial Day parades, family traditions and barbeques, let us not forget the real reason for the day. At 3pm local time today, I invite each of us to stop wherever we are and join in the National Moment of Remembrance. To all of the Gold Star families and members of our nation’s military, thank you for you service and your sacrifice.
Letter from George Tullidge:
Somewhere in England.
May 10, 1944.
Mother writes and tells me how big a boy you are getting to be. It seems like a mighty long time since I have seen you boys, and I guess it will be a while longer; probably I will have a hard time even recognizing you. I just know and pray that you will turn out to be the kind of boys that Mother and Dad are teaching you to be. Just please take a word of advice from somebody who has had a small look around anyway. Maybe I am not so old, but this two years in the army has shown and taught me lots of things about life that I never dreamed of before. I won’t go into a long discussion but just remember when you are out with the boys and girls what is wrong and what is right. Please don’t let them get you and Arch off on the wrong foot because they will if you are not careful. There are lots of things in life bigger and finer than some immediate pleasures; and some few seeming small things at present can break up the finer ones for you later. You know what I am talking about, drinking and loose women. I see men every day who are ruining themselves through dissipation, both sexual and alcoholic. They don’t think so, and seem to be perfectly happy at this time. They even seem happier than others, but sooner or later it will get them; some sooner, and others later.
Another thing that has helped me a lot is my firm belief in the Lord. Often times when I feel depressed and blue it does me an awful lot of good to read my Bible and a little book that Mother sent me. A good belief in Christianity (very broad term) gives a fellow something to grasp when the going gets tough, and it does at times. A lot of boys have a hard time because they do not have it there to take hold of. Of course, it is there for all to have if they want, but due to wrong living and poor home life, they haven’t been made to realize that it is there. On this coming invasion the thing called “luck” will play a big part as to whether a fellow gets back or not. This luck is God’s protection. I think so anyway. Good soldiering will certainly play its part, but the Lord looking over you will be the big factor, and fellows then will really need plenty of mental help.
Maybe this sounds like so much bull; but I just want to impress upon you that if you grow up to be the young man that Mother and Dad want and teach you to be, things will be much nicer and brighter for you. At times the wrong thing will seem much better and more fun, but just remember the consequences.
As long as I seem to be preaching a sermon, I want to ask a big favor of you. You know this mess will “bust” inside open one of these days, and I imagine I will have a first hand look at what is going on. Of course, Mother knows this, too, so I want you to be a comfort to her. There will probably be a long time, maybe a couple of months, that she won’t hear from me. I know it will be a big strain to her, so I want you boys to help her as much as possible. Dad will be worried, too, but won’t show it perhaps as much, so just be as good and helpful as you can. Thanks!
Best wishes and may God bless you always.
Your best Pal,