This gravesite is one out of nine thousand three hundred and eighty-five in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, one of the resting places for American Troops that died in Europe during WWII. It’s a sobering number. Instead of mourning their death, lets us rejoice that they lived.
Deborah Sampson. I take the word men and take it to mean all men as in mankind. She cut off her hair, bound her breast, and enlisted as a man in the American Revolutionary War. She was born on December 17, 1760 in Plympton, Massachusetts (Go SOXs!), and at the age of ten was sent away to be an indentured servant to a family within Massachusetts. For those new to the term it means you are a slave (work but no pay) but for a set time limit (usually 7 to 10 years). In April of 1781 she puts on her disguised and enlisted in Captain Webb’s company in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment, under the alias Robert Shurtliff. She was wounded twice during her Army career, the first was a shot in the thigh and she removed the bullet herself. She dug the bullet out of her own thigh without medical help because she fear of discovery by seeing a doctor. The second wound was a bullet to the shoulder that result in a fever (I’m guessing due to infection), resulting in hospitalization and discovery. Rather than disgrace or jail time she was honorable discharge in October of 1783 and went home.
Jimmie W. Monteith. Born July 1, 1917 (so close to July 4th) and raised in the state of Virginia, and like so many of us when to high school (played sports), college, and then an average 9-5 job. He was there in France on D-Day, stormed the beaches, like a Bass Ass, and he walked into a mind-field and guide US Tanks into firing positions. He just keeps going out in the open to secure the lines, I don’t know what his last words were but the phrase You and What Army come to mind. Lt. Monteith was awarded the Medal of Honor and rest with his brothers in arms at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
John Steele. Born in the City of Metropolis (are we sure this guy isn’t superman?) in the state of Illinois, is the unstoppable paratrooper. He enlisted and joined 82nd Airborne Division where he broke his leg during the Sicily drop, he fixes it with duck tape (not really please don’t try to “fix” a broken leg with tap) and hopped back into Italy campaign taking names from Salerno to Naples. Then it off to England to prepare for D-Day, he and thousands more parachuted into Sainte-Mere-Eglise behind enemy lines before the ships land on the beaches. On his way down he was hit in his foot and his parachute was caught on the steeple of the Church. He hangs there for hours trying to get loose before some Germans came to investigate, to see if he was really died. He was captured and three days later busted out and made it back to the Allies side and another trip to the hospital. His tale doesn’t end there, he parachutes into Holland and was in the Battle of the Bulge. He made it to the age of 57 before cancer took him, but you can still see him on the Church roof in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, on the ready line.
Havildar Lachhiman Gurung. Four feet of fury. He was born in Nepal but at 4 feet and 11 inches (1.5M) was too short to be a stormtrooper and to enlisted in the British Indian Army during peacetime. Which seems odd because when it really matters you let him in but when nothing is going on it’s a no? He enlisted in December of 1940 and was in the 4th Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles on the 13th of May 1945 when shit went down. He was manning the forward post (person in most danger) when an estimated 200 Japanese soldiers attacked, spoiler alert it didn’t end well for them. Three grenades landed in his trench he returned two, but the third went off in his hand. He shrugs grabs is riffle in the left hand and holds off the enemy for four hours. That’s not a typo, his hand is gone and the right side of his body, to include his eye, is badly injured but he stands tall and holds them off while yelling “Come and fight a Gurkha!”. After the War he returned home to his farm and fought like a Gurkha until the age of 92. I didn’t see any mention of it but I’m pretty sure he and Daniel Inouye are brothers from another mother.
Whose life will you celebrate today? How about the all those in the medical field thought out history that have fought to keep us alive. Mary Seacole, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Percy Lavon Julian, Desmond Doss, or Mary Edwards Walker.
Given the COVID-19 era, we are living in it might be worth looking up Ignaz Semmeiweis. This a sad tale, Ignaz figured out that washing your hand would decrease the mortality rate in the 1840’s. He couldn’t explain in detail why because germ theory wasn’t widely studied, understood, or accepted until decades later. Ignaz died young at the age of 47 in an Insane Asylum. It’s unknown what illness he had, given medical records and knowledge of the time, but the knowledge that washing hands and equipment could save lives but was ignored must have factored into his health. He was a real-life Cassandra, cursed to know the truth but never be believed.