Thursday, November 10, 2016

What America Is

Today we are all reeling a bit with the news most of us woke up to yesterday.  Regardless who you voted for, they were both flawed,  most of us had to hold our noses.  Fear not - America is a strong place full of strong people who will find a way to lead us through the hazy fog toward our next better future.  

I want to take you back to a time that tells us more than today's politicians what America was....and still is.  On a map Kentucky looks like a baby in swaddling resting peacefully.  Right across the river from Cincinnati is a series of towns that dot the border.  One of those is a place called Dayton.  In 1920 the population was about 7,500.  Aledo times 2.  One of those counted in the census that year was a 1 year old boy named Edward Ahrens.  If you go to Wikipedia and look up the town you'll find that there are 7 notable people who came from Dayton, but Eddie wasn't listed as one of them.   That's probably because he wasn't an actor, or baseball player or basketball coach.  

Two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that forced America into a world war, Eddie went across the river and in Cincinnati enlisted in the Marine Corps.  He'd just turned 22 on November 4th.  He bade farewell to his sister and parents and travelled like so many others to training sites all over the country.  many of them having left their homes and states for the first time.

Eddie went to boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island in South Carolina.  After his training at boot camp he was then transferred to Marine Barracks Quantico in Virginia.  You can't tell much from the picture above but you can see a steely  determination, a kid ready help his country and maybe, just maybe a bit of a kid far from home.  

Five months later, after additional training at Quantico, this kid from a small town in Kentucky, who last summer was likely swimming at Dayton beach with his buddy's is aboard the U.S.S Little off Tulagi, Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands in the Pacific.  He had been assigned to Company "A", 1st Raider Battalion, Fleet Marine Force.  Wonder what that big ocean looked like to that small town kid? 

 1st Marine Raider Battalion Insignia

The Raiders were elite units established as a kind of special forces.  These were the guys who landed in rubber boats and did behind the line things.  Edson's 1st and Carlson's 2nd Raider units are the very first established by the U.S. military and their first action was in Guadalcanal.  Eddie was one of them.  

The 1st Raiders were part of the second wave that landed on August 7th, 1942 on Tulagi.  Company C took the right flank while Company A, Eddie's group went farther west, to the left to help secure the ridge slope.  There was no opposition.  It was easy.  

That night, however, the Japanese launched a counter attack,  forming a wedge between Companies A and C,  concentrating most of their forces on Company A in an effort to gain a residency that housed Company C and used to belong to a former British government building.   Eddie was stationed with a security detachment to help protect the perimeter.  

When the morning sun came up, the Japanese attack had been stalled.  Major Lew Walt walked the lines to assess the damage.  This is what Major Walt saw when he came to Eddie Ahrens position. 

"I came upon a foxhole occupied by Private First Class Ahrens, a small man of about 140 pounds. He was slumped in one corner of the foxhole, covered in blood from head to foot.  In the foxhole with him were two dead Japs, a lieutenant and a sergeant.  There were 11 more dead Japs on the ground in front of his position.  In his hands he clutched the dead officer's sword."

Ahren's was dying from multiple gunshot and stab wounds.  His last whispered words as related by Major Walt:

"The bastards tried to come over me last night.  I guess they didn't know I was a Marine."

PFC Edward H. Ahrens, 22, unmarried, from Dayton, Kentucky, died in Major Walt's arms.  He held his line till help arrived.  


Private Ahrens was awarded the Navy Cross.  Today he lies at Evergreen Cemetery, about 8 minutes from the only town he ever lived in. 

Shake off the muck of the election.  America isn't the Clinton's or the Trump's.  America is teeming with the resolve, determination and spirit of little Edward Henry Ahrens.  

Today is the Marine Corps birthday.  I don't worry about this country and I won't joke about moving somewhere else.  The Marine Corps, the Navy, the Army, the Coast Guard and the Air Force all produce men and women of high character.  Happy Birthday, Marines, and let's honor our Vets. 

Happy Birthday, Marines.

Addendum:  The Raider Units mentioned in this post were disbanded in 1944.  There was resentment amongst other Marines who felt there need not be elite units in an already elite Corps.  Ever since their disbandment, every Marine has been trained to do what the raiders did.  

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