I was 12 when My grandfather, Stanley Kiefski, passed away. A Navy veteran who was lucky enough to be on a boat returning to California shortly before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. I may have never met him. I don't remember a whole lot of the funeral, the day, or the weather. I think it was cold. What I do remember was taps playing, guns firing, and a folded flag.
It wasn't until I moved to Savannah that I began to recognize what "duty, honor, country", meant. More than words General MacArthur gave. It was real and whole. It has mass and body. Mass, of the many that hear the call to join our armed forces. Body, of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
Savannah is military. Past, present, and future.
Hunter Army Airfield, in Savannah, is home of the Army Rangers 1st Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment.
Fort Stewart, 20 minutes south of Savannah, is home of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and is the largest military base east of the Mississippi.
Parris Island, 40 minutes north of Savannah, is a Marine training facility turning out nearly 17,000 recruits a year.
Kings Bay Navy Submarine Base, 100 miles south of Savannah, is the U.S. Atlantic Fleet's home port for the Navy's ballistic missile nuclear submarines.
FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) ,70 miles south of Savannah, serves as an interagency law enforcement training organization for 91 federal agencies, partner organizations along with state, local, rural, tribal, territorial, and international law enforcement agencies.
All this, combined with Savannah's amazing military history, makes it hard not to notice the non-stop effort it takes to provide our nation's freedom.
Just about anywhere in Savannah you can find reminders, markers, and monuments honoring Savannah's importance to the very life of this nation. A visit to Bonaventure Cemetery you can find markers to veterans of the American Revolution, Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and nearly every military skirmish in between.
For those visiting Savannah interested in honoring our military, I would suggest:
Bonaventure Cemetery. Go to the visitors center for a free map to find the military plot and also the somewhat hidden plot of the dead from the Spanish American War. I can't say enough of this cemetery. It's a must do!
The Mighty Eighth Museum. Located 1 exit south of the Savannah airport on I 95. It is a fitting place to honor this prestigious group of airmen and their place in military history.
Savannah's World War II memorial is a spectacular addition on the west side of River Street. Called "A World Apart" and shows a globe cut in half portraying the European and Pacific theaters. It features names of locals who lost their lives in that war. It's bigger than I imagined it would be, and rivals monuments in our nation's capitol.
locals insider tip ... Kevin Barry's Pub located on River Street. The second floor of this local and tourist favorite is called the Hall of Heroes and is a moving tribute to our military. I had the privilege to walk through this with one of the survivors of a little battle you may know as Black Hawk Down. He was visibly moved by this place as am I. I personally knew several soldiers that are on these walls. Can't believe they are gone. Guys I knew downtown. Drinking buddies. Friends. Immortally heroes.
I dedicate this blog to Sgt. Mason Lewis. A friend, a co-worker, an employee. Killed in Iraq on November 16, 2007 while helping train members of the Iraqi military. Mason was the first person I knew die in Iraq or Afghanistan. Remembering, honoring, memorializing. It's simply not enough for our bravely fallen, but it's all I can do today. I'm drinking a beer for you today Mason.