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As Long as We Remember...

April 6, 2011

Where do we get such men?

Kevin E. Dayhoff

There are no words that can adequately describe the valor of the young men and women who are currently fighting and dying in the Middle East for our country.


While covering the funeral of Staff Sgt. James M. Malachowski for my newspaper, in the last several weeks, I could not help but think of the famous quote when I wrote on about reporting on the funeral of Marine Staff Sgt. Charles Isaac Cartwright: “Where do we get such men?”


If you will recall, SSgt. Cartwright, 26, of Union Bridge, was a 2001 Walkersville High School graduate who gave his final full measure of devotion to our country on November 7, 2009, while supporting combat operations in Farah Province, Afghanistan.


SSgt. Malachowski, 25, of Westminster, was a sergeant with the 3rd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, which is based in Camp Lejeune, NC.


The Carroll County native joined the Marines in June 2003, immediately after graduating from North Carroll High School. He was killed in action March 20, 2011, by an improvised exploding device (IED), while conducting combat operations in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan.


The extraordinary Malachowski family held a press conference on March 22: “With the rolling hills of the Carroll County countryside in full view, the sun shining brightly and the American flag gently flapping in the breeze, the family of the fallen Westminster Marine stopped to talk about their son and brother early Tuesday afternoon.”


Writing about fallen heroes is such a daunting task, yet it must be done in order for the greater community to know and appreciate the legacy of such inspiring young men and women.


I felt so badly for the Malachowski family. His mom – who herself served in the Marines in the late 1970s said: “I have never felt this much pain in my entire life…”


However, at the beginning of the press event, my heart went out for his mother when she asked the press for some restraint and respect. It made me sad. My notes are failing me, but I believe she prefaced her remarks by expressing dismay over the media preoccupation with things such as covering the antics of Charlie Sheen; she was worried that the press might turn her words around and portray her in a negative light.


In a later conversation with a colleague from another publication, he said what I was thinking at the time, that perhaps she worried needlessly.  Maybe yes – maybe no.


As I looked around at the assembled members of the fourth estate, there were nothing but first-class, solid reporters in attendance. But she did not know that.


That said; we should all be collectively ashamed that at a time of unspeakable pain – the loss of an incredible young man, who died so that we may have the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech, the mother was worried about what the press was going to do to her.


His father described his son as modest, but said: “I want him remembered as a hero…” Men and women in uniform “are dying and being horrifically injured over there,” he said. [We need to] remember all the men and woman in uniform.”


He expressed the same concern felt by many, that the men and women fighting and dying for us, are being, for the most part, ignored.


My editor at The Carroll Eagle, Jim Joyner, said it so well on October 2, 2010, in the context of Carroll County native Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, whose March 10, 2006, funeral was picketed by members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church. The Westminster Marine was 20 years old when he died March 3, 2006, in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.


Mr. Joyner said: “… we in Snyder’s home community of Carroll County have an opportunity – and perhaps a duty – to remember the man and the family whose sacrifice … a fight they didn’t want; an outcome they most certainly wished would never have come to them.”


There is not much we can do individually about aspects of the national media; but, hopefully, the family was buoyed by the outpouring of support they received from the greater Carroll County community, and how respectfully they were treated by local media. The coverage by my friends and colleagues at The Carroll County Times was inspiring.


Also there to lend a hand to the family, in the last several weeks, was the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, the Maryland State Police, the Hampstead Police, the American Red Cross, fellow Marines and military personnel, and the Marine Corps League.


Words cannot describe how helpful and attentive the American Red Cross was to the family, the Marine Corps, the press, and those wishing to pay their respects to the family


Equally impressive was Gov. Martin O’Malley, who came to pay his respects. He was unannounced and essentially without support staff, and spent about 15-minutes speaking with the family.


In another conversation with fellow members of the media the day of the funeral, we commiserated that we certainly hope that we do not have to cover any more military funerals.


Hopefully the family was helped in some small measure by the support it received.


In the weeks, months and years to come, I hope that even more Americans will join us in celebrating our nation’s men and women in uniform, and never forget the sacrifice made by our neighbors’ sons and daughters for our way of life.


We owe it to our friends, neighbors and loved ones who died defending liberty and justice. I don’t know where we get such fine young men and women, but I know I speak for many when I say God Bless them and thank you.


. . . . I’m just saying…


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