Today many of us will gather with family and friends for barbecues and picnics to celebrate Memorial Day, the unofficial kickoff to summer. But, at some point between the hot dogs, hamburgers, and volleyball, I hope each of us will take time to reflect on what Memorial Day is really about – remembering the American soldiers who have lost their lives in battle to protect the freedoms so many of us take for granted.
While Memorial Day is intended to honor our fallen, we should not forget those who have pledged to make the same sacrifice if called upon – the young men and women still serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, the United States and in more than 130 foreign lands.
And, I want to take this opportunity to share with you a remembrance of my dad that is posted at the Home of Heroes website:
Major Philip B. Larimore was the youngest man commissioned in World War II and the most-decorated Memphis hero of World War 2. He was decorated with:
- the Distinguished Service Cross,
- Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster,
- Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster,
- Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters,
- Croix D’Guerre with Palm, and
He was also awarded:
- the European Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars and an arrowhead,
- the American Campaign Medal,
- the World War II Victory Medal, and
- the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Major Larimore’s unit received two Presidential Unit Citations. And, he received Battle Stars for the Rome-Arno, Southern France, and Germany campaigns. He was promoted to first lieutenant when 18, to captain at 19, and major at 22. He was wounded six times at Anzio and at least twice in southern France. He refused five purple heart nominations.
In Germany, at 20 years old, as Company Commander of Company L, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division, while beating down three German machine-gun nests, he received the bullet wound which crushed the bone in his right leg above the knee causing him to lose his leg. He completed his Army service at Fort Myer, Virginia, as Executive Officer of the Ceremonial Detachment at Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Recently, I discovered his citation for his Distinguished Service Cross:
Awarded for actions during the World War II Campaign
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Major (Infantry), [then First Lieutenant] Philip B. Larimore (ASN: 0-511609), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while Commanding Company L, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 8 April 1945, near Rottershausen, Germany.
Leading his company’s attack, Major Larimore miraculously eluded the hail of enemy bullets concentrated on him and, in hand-to-hand fighting of which he was the center, killed a German officer at point-blank range.
With the unit objective taken, he sent out a patrol. Learning soon after that it was surrounded by enemy forces, he determined to go to its relief.
As he ran toward a tank in which to move up, enemy snipers opened fire, but leaping on the back of the vehicle, he ordered it forward and manned the turret machine gun. Firing into the woods and killing several of the enemy, he drew hostile fire on himself as his patrol used the diversion to withdraw.
Moving across a clearing with the tank, firing and being fired on all the way, he was struck on the helmet by a sniper bullet and momentarily stunned. Leaping from the tank, he was again hit by enemy fire and severely wounded.
Major Larimore, by his heroic leadership and courageous action in diverting the enemy, delivered his comrades from encirclement and greatly aided in securing the battalion objective.
Major Larimore’s intrepid actions, personal bravery, and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3d Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 52 (June 10, 1947).
Action Date: 8-Apr-45
We his sons, Walter, Billy, Phil, and Rick, are aware that he was one of our nation’s heroes, but we choose to honor him even more as a loving husband to his wife of 54 years, Maxine, an incredible father to us, and a beloved grandfather to our children.
So today, on this sacred day, we pause to reflect on what has been given and sacrificed. Let us never forget. But let us also remember what resulted from these sacrifices. Let us remember the terrorist plots that were foiled and the killers that have been brought to justice because Americans were willing to pay the price. Let us remember the tyrannical regimes that have been toppled and the genocides that were stopped because Americans sacrificed life and limb. Let us remember that without a U.S. military, the world would be a far more oppressive and darker place.
Freedom is not a gift. It is an earned benefit that was paid for by the blood of our heroes. From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terrorism, the sacrifices and caliber of America’s fighting men and women have been nothing short of inspirational.
As we rest this weekend, let’s each take a moment to reflect on what Memorial Day means — and to teach our children and grandchildren to love the things we love, and honor the things we honor. Finally, let’s remind ourselves as well as our children that all liberty is a gift from God, and that each generation has paid in flesh and blood to preserve it. As General George Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”