Memorial Day sneaks up on me every time. It comes right at the end of the academic year; if you're a parent with kids - or still in school yourself (whether a student or a teacher) - you know how busy it is this time in May. Plus, it is high spring in South Carolina - one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Palmetto State - so outdoor sports are in full swing; not to mention all sorts of other activities that demand our time.
So when Memorial Day weekend comes, the prospect of a three-day break is welcome relief. Yet by time Friday turns to Saturday, and then Sunday dawns - I am left feeling ashamed that I have not done enough to reflect on the memory of those brave men and women who laid down their lives while serving in our nation's military. By Monday morning, it hits me like a ton of bricks. I can't shake the feeling that we owe those Coast Guardsmen, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Soldiers more than just abstract "thanks". That we need to do a little more than repeat the platitudes that they died to keep our nation free - true as that sentiment is.
A simple study of history informs us that every war in which the United States has engaged, with the sole exception of the Second World War, has been wildly unpopular with at least some sizeable segments of the population. Iraq and Afghanistan are no different in this respect than the Revolution, or the Civil War - or for that matter the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, Korea or Vietnam. The "popularity" of a war is irrelevant to the sacrifices made by our military, however. All we need to know is that the call went out and that a valiant few answered. And that some answered with the cost of their lives. That, to me, is the essence of Memorial Day. It is not a day for politics. It is not an abstract day, either. It is a day to remember real people - men and women - who lived real lives. Had real families. Really loved. Really served. And died, often alone - sometimes in great pain.
As such, let us keep this Memorial Day "real" too. It is the duty we the living owe to the fallen.
In keeping that duty, today GABA honors the life and death of Marine Corporal David G. Weimortz, U.S.M.C. David was born in Columbia, South Carolina on August 31, 1977 - the son of Mrs. Fran Fellers and Mr. Terry Weimortz. He graduated from Dutch Fork High School in 1995, where he was a stand-out golfer. David was a really big guy - he was 6'6" and weighed 225 lbs. He was athletic and loved all sports, including baseball.
His friends universally remarked on his amazing sense of humor (he could make anyone laugh), along with his courtesy to others, his sense of loyalty to his friends and the unconditional love he had for his sister, Kelly. He was a devout Christian.
David attended USC and graduated with a degree in history in 2000. While at USC, he worked at Bird on a Wire on Devine Street. After graduating, he was interested in the law, but like a lot of us postponed grad school and looked into some other careers first (working as a publisher in Raleigh; a car dealer in Charleston; and even modeling some NASCAR products).
He decided to enlist in the Marine Corps in March, 2003. Some remember that he even made his drill instructor's laugh - no mean feat for a Parris Island recruit! After Basic, he was was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. David served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom; his decorations include the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Medal. In 2006, he volunteered to go back to Iraq for a third tour; he articulated the reason why in a 2005, interview to Infoline Marine, in which he said that he tried to connect with local Iraqis to show that the Marines were liberators, not conquerors. The publication featured the photo of him shaking hands with a young Iraqi boy. It is an iconic and heart-rending photo.
David died almost a year later - on August 26, 2006 - from wounds sustained from an IED while engaged in combat operations at Habbaniyah, Al Anbar Province, Iraq; he would have celebrated his 29th birthday just five days later. He was laid to rest at his family's burial plot in Columbia.
The General Assembly honored David with a 2007 resolution renaming part of the Old Tamah Road in Richland County in his honor
Read more about David at:
Freedom Remembered; and
I never knew this brave man, but I wish I had. God bless all the fallen and their families and friends, not just from the Gamecock Family or the Palmetto State, but all across the nation.