Virgil Smith, R.I.P.

Posted on May 26, 2014 by

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Virgil Smith was my father’s father. He is buried in the Henri-Chapelle military cemetery, one of the 420,000 Americans who died during World War 2. Virgil Smith was a West Virginia coal miner and a father of five. When the war began, like countless others, he enlisted. A Private First Class in the U.S. Army, he went ashore at Normandy on June 6, 1944. He pushed through the French countryside throughout the summer and found himself, in November, in the Hürtgen Forest, which is nestled on the Belgium-Germany border. The Army, unwittingly, entered into the staging area for the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans filled the dense thicket with pillboxes and land mines, exacting heavy costs for every foot of American progress.

One of those land mines claimed Virgil Smith. Leaving his wife without a husband, and his children without a father, their cost was personal, while our benefit is eternal. Due to the legions of young men and women who enter into hell, so often of their own volition, many of us, whether American, Dutch, French, South Korean, Iraqi, or Afghani, would not be free. Though we should remember them today, we honor them when we cherish and use the freedom for which they died.  In this sense, every day is Memorial Day, for we are their legacy. I pray we are worthy heirs.

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