The column that says if you’re grilling for your son or daughter tomorrow, rain or no rain, take a close look at them and try to imagine they’re far away across the sea fighting for our freedom and you don’t know if you’re ever going to see them again, and then re-examine what Memorial Day means to all of us, and think of how many mothers suffered from PTSD back then without ever picking up a weapon.
By Jack Hummel.m.
Radio: 92.1 WVLT Saturdays noon to 2 p.m.
U.S. Army: RA13815980
Google all columns at jackhummelblog
Dec. 7, 2012
David Sharkey shouldn’t have been in the service in the first place.
He injured his left hand when he was 11 in Massachusetts and was later turned down when he tried to enlist in the Army in 1943.
So he wrote the president. He got a return letter that told him to report to Boston City Hospital.
Weeks later, he was taking basic training at Fort McClellan, Ala. He made it to Africa and then Italy before the war ended. Call it a cup of coffee compared with Korea.
In Korea, he got up close and personal with Heartbreak Ridge, where some of the bloodiest fighting of the Korean War took place.
It was on Feb. 22, 1952, when he made his country proud.
As part of the 2nd Division in Kumwha, he suddenly observed hostile bunkers while on patrol. He was the platoon sergeant.
“I wasn’t going to let my men do anything that I wouldn’t do” is how he explained what happened next.
After deploying his men to deliver cover fire for him, Sharkey crept to a position from where he could go across the top of each bunker and drop a grenade down the hole in the roof.
“When they came out, I shot them,” he said.
After the last bunker was disabled, there were two more enemy soldiers across the field and he shot them, too.
How did he feel?
“I went back and told the colonel,” he said simply.
It earned David Sharkey the Silver Star, the second highest honor the country bestows for gallantry.
“They conduct 25 to 30 funerals a day at Arlington,” explained his widow, Dolores, “but it didn’t feel that way.”
Ironically, he is buried on the south area post, where he and his wife lived when he served at Arlington as a master sergeant after Korea.
“It’s all changed now,” Dolores noted. “Now it’s all crosses.”
When his wife of 61 years met with the chaplain conducting the service, she told him the story of having surgery in order to get into the service.
“He must have really loved his country,” the chaplain told her. “And your marriage of 61 years is a good lesson for others.”
The service took no more than 40 minutes.
Normally, the American flagwould be draped over the casket.
Since the American hero had been cremated after his Sept. 14 passing, the flag was held over the urn (a clock set to 4:10, the time of his death) before being ceremoniously folded and passed to the widow.
“From God and country,” the presenter told her.
“I told him it had been my husband’s job at Arlington to present the flag to the family at burials,” said Dolores.
Tears ran down the soldier’s face.
“And then I cried,’’ said Dolores.
A 21-gun salute followed.
Then a bugler on the hill played “Taps.”
“There was a tree nearby and, as soon as the bugler started playing, leaves came down like a snow shower,” she said. “When he stopped playing, the leaves stopped falling. Everybody noticed it.”
A basket that had been with him in the hospital was outfitted with a flag, yellow flowers and yellow ribbons signifying coming home.
It was to “Pop Pop.”
Dolores gave him a red rose.
Presenting it, she told him, “You’re on duty again.”
There was a story behind the rose.
“When he got his promotion at Owens-Illinois, he brought home a dozen red roses,” Dolores recalled. “He told me, ‘No more carnations for you,’ and handed me the roses.”
During one of their early anniversaries, he told her he had gone around the world looking for the right girl and found her standing in front of a doughnut shop in Philadelphia.
That’s how they met. He was riding in a car with Army buddies, saw her and told the driver to stop. After asking her for a date, he got back in the car and told his buddies, “I’m going to marry that girl.”
They were married on March 3, 1951.
For the first time since his death, Dolores Sharkey slept well Tuesday night.
“I think,” she said, “it’s because I knew he was where he wanted to be.”
One more before tomorrow’s ceremonies.
Platoon leader David Sharkey loved his men.
Col. Wilbur Wilson called him the best platoon sergeant that he had ever met in both Europe and Korea.
“I had respect for who I served with,” Sharkey said. “I have always thanked those I served with. In World War II and Korea, you remember great guys who you cried with and laughed with. We always looked out for one another.”
But it still haunts him today.
“When I was stationed in Arlington, Dolores and I were walking down the street, and we met up with five or six guys I had served with.
“They were a mess.”
Sharkey figures they had spent time in Walter Reed Army Hospital.
“They were shaking,” he recalled.
One told him, “After you left, we got our asses kicked.”
There were a few light moments.
When he was able to go on rest and relaxation leave to Japan, they kicked down his bedroom door and left a naked woman.
Sharkey, who never forget he was married, got up, got dressed and asked to stay with his brother, who was flying bombing missions over Korea.
He slept in his brother Buddy’s bed that night and later went with him into Tokyo.
He called his wife, Dolores, on the phone.
It was 6 a.m. in the states.
He went and woke up Davy Jr., and his dad was able to hear him cry for the first time over the phone.
“I remember when I saw Dolores and our son standing at the gate of Camp Kilmer,” said Sharkey. “I knew I was home. I did not meet my son until he was a year old.
“I can still remember that moment when Dolores handed him to me, and I kissed him for the first time.”
Later stationed at Arlington, Va., Sharkey was a member of the president’s guard unit for both Truman and Eisehhower and marched in Eisenhower’s inauguration parade.
At Arlington Cemetery, Master Sergeant Sharkey was given the duty of presenting the folded flag to the fallen heroes’ loved ones at their burial.
In the evening, he would hear “Taps” being played:
“Day is done.
Gone the sun
From the lakes,
From the hills,
From the sky.
All is well,
God is nigh.
“Thanks and praise
For our days
Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
Neath the sky.
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.”
“I can remember as I looked across the fields of Arlington and saw the graves of our fallen heroes,” said Sharkey. “I can remember how proud I was to have had the honor to serve there.”
Kristi Birtch’s third-grade class at Broad Street School will hold a roll call for the 75 names on the World War II monument in front of the school starting at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and, hopefully, a sound system will be provided.
We know veteran Bob Westcott had one a few years ago.
“At 3 p.m. sharp, Lt Colonel Bill McLean will play ‘Taps’ at the Cumberland County Veterans Cemetery as part of Bugles Across America.
On the long exodus from the Blue Angels air show …
“The long exit was the result of an accident at Main and Cedar which cut off one of the main exit routes. Compound this with the heavy rain right after close of show and the literally thousands of parked cars, it took a while to clear up the jam. The show was well worth it.”
— Mike Benfer
Traffic jams let you know who has high blood pressure and who doesn’t.
What we hate is when the lead car on a left-turn arrow sits there for 5 seconds when the arrow only lasts 10 seconds and 40 cars are waiting to storm at you from ahead to cut off any possibility of turning on the green light that follows.
That lead car is the face of America’s middle class. Comfortable in their position.
Sound system Broad Street School ceremony Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. bought and paid for, and we will pick up Monday and scream the name “Kristi!” until she answers!
YOU CAN BOOK IT: Praying she knows how to use it!