On November 20, 1944, the 84th infantry division of the U.S. Army engaged a garrison of the 15th Panzer division near Sueggerath, Germany. Many soldiers lost their lives that day, including PFC Edward Lawrence O'Toole, a 23-year-old native of San Francisco, who had just shipped overseas. His remains were never recovered until 2009, when they were found and identified. They were shipped back recently to the U.S., and were buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery.
I was saddened that no close relatives were alive to witness his homecoming. So I decided to visit his plot to pay my respects. The cemetery is reminiscent of the cemeteries at Arlington and Omaha Beach, both of which I have visited. White marble tomb stones rise from blades of grass and line up precisely as if the interred servicemen and women are still at attention. Edward's stone occupies a prominent position in the center of the cemetery, in direct line of sight to a flag pole waving the star and stripes. It is a fitting and proper resting place for a long forgotten soldier who died for his country.
Today, we continue to lose members of our armed services fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We debate the justifications for these conflicts, the rationale for various strategies, and how and when we should bring our troops home. The debate can be rancorous and divisive at times. But one thing we can all agree on is that we owe our deepest gratitude to those who left our shores to fight for our freedom and way of life, and did not return alive.
Edward O'Toole may have died late in World War II, when victory was all but inevitable, but his death was no less a sacrifice than those brave boys who lost their lives at Omaha Beach or Iwo Jima or those we lose today in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 66 years after his death, we remember Edward O'Toole's ultimate sacrifice, and we salute him.
With a Perspective, I'm Andres Fernandez.