Earlier today, I stood on the decks of the USS Turner Joy in Bremerton and joined others in observance of Memorial Day. It’s a ceremony I attend nearly every year, and the Navy League always does an outstanding job.
Last year was a rare year in which I missed the ceremony. One year ago, I was invited to join a delegation of American leaders to participate in a Memorial Day commemoration at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.
I was struck by a few things that day.
I was struck by the fact that I was surrounded by crosses and Stars of David as far as the eye could see. I was conscious that each of those grave markings represented a person – a son or daughter, a husband or wife, a mom or dad.
I was struck that each represented a sacrifice – and a story.
While there, I asked our guide to share one of those stories with me. She told me the story of one of our fellow Washingtonians, LTC Ira Rumburg. Ira was born here in Washington and was a talented athlete. He attended what was then called Washington State College where he captained the Cougar football team and was a heavyweight wrestler. He became cadet commander of the ROTC battalion.
In 1944, he was assigned to the 264th Regiment of the 66th Division which was called in as reinforcements during the Battle of the Bulge. Six miles off the coast of Cherbourg, France their boat was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Survivors reported that Ira Rumburg, though wounded himself, spent hours rescuing others. But sadly, Ira’s body was never found. Now Ira’s name is chiseled on the Wall of the Missing in Normandy.
That’s just one story. But it was meaningful to me. Because as I looked across that field of graves, I thought of the young service members who liberated a village in Holland. Who, in doing so, saved the lives of my grandparents and mom.
I thought of the extraordinary sacrifices of so many – in World War II and in so many other wars throughout our nation’s history.
Today I hope you will join me in taking a moment to think about these individuals – folks like Ira – and those they left behind.
And I hope you’ll also join me in thinking about why they sacrificed.
So we could be free.
So that future generations could grow up in a stronger country.
As your representative, I’m honored to do all I can to step up for those who serve our nation and for their families. On this day – and on every day – we owe them so much.