, Salem, MA


May 23, 2014

Our view: A call to service this Memorial Day

Seventy years ago, Bob Flachbart, a young infantryman from Peabody, was awarded the Silver Star — the Army’s third-highest honor.

It was one of two Silver Stars he would receive, along with a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, for deeds many of us would find unimaginable. In Anzio, Italy, Flachbart ran to an empty machine gun nest during a German attack, beating the enemy to it by a few seconds, and manned the gun alone. Hit by a shell, he was knocked out and, when he awoke, found himself behind enemy lines, wounded, without food and separated from his unit. It took him two days to sneak back to Allied lines, sleeping in ditches during the day and traveling by night, he told reporter Ethan Forman last week.

Flachbart, now 94, has never forgotten what he experienced during World War II. All these years later, loud noises can still startle him.

Honor Flight New England made sure he knows we will never forget his courage and his sacrifices, either.

Last week, the nonprofit flew Flachbart and other veterans to the nation’s capital, for free, to view the memorials that honor their service. The organization has been providing these flights since 2009, focusing on World War II veterans because, as they point out, we are losing them at a rate of about 1,000 a day. They plan to continue the service later for veterans of more recent wars.

As we head into this Memorial Day weekend, a time of backyard barbecues and family get-togethers, we owe a debt of gratitude not only to the men and women in the military who gave so much for their country, but to the volunteers at organizations like Honor Flight who do so much to make sure those veterans are not forgotten.

Groups like Operation Troop Support in Danvers have been sending care packages to soldiers, and providing support for their families at home, for a decade. They do this in all our names, representing all of us back home, but not all of us share in the work — raising money for postage, collecting gifts, finding military personnel, wrapping presents and so much more.

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