Any runner doing a 5k at Nashua’s Mine Falls Park knows to turn left at the flagpole.
Every kid headed to the soccer fields knows to go straight at the flagpole.
It’s a landmark, impossible to miss from the Whipple Street entrance. I’ve been past it many times on my countless walks through the park. People walk past it every day. How many of them notice the granite at the base? It looks so natural there. Easy to overlook, actually, while hurrying to a game or running along the trails.
Slow down, and you’ll see the lettering on it.
These fields are dedicated in memory of Staff Sergeant Allen H. Soifert, USMC of Nashua, killed in action Oct. 14, 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon while serving with the multi national peace keeping force.
A sniper took Staff Sergeant Soifert’s life, nine days before two suicide bombers drove truck bombs into military barracks in Beirut, killing almost 300 American and French Marines, soldiers and sailors.
I’m ashamed to say I must have seen an article in the Telegraph about Soifert’s death, then thought “oh, that’s too bad” and turned the page. Twenty-five years later, my son – born two weeks after Soifert’s death – was in Iraq with the U.S. Army. He made it home safely. Since then, I can’t see any memorial to a fallen servicemember without thinking how much that person meant not just to the nation but also to a family.
We’re surrounded by these little reminders of our veterans – those who returned home as well as those who died in action. A sign on a bridge, a plaque at a stadium, a piece of granite at the foot of a flagpole: everyday reminders. In 1983, I read the news of Staff Sergeant Soifert’s death, and then I turned the page. I’m grateful to the neighbors who kept the page open by erecting his memorial.
Anyone who follows me on Facebook sees this message from me twice a year. It bears repeating. My son went to war in the in the uniform of our country and has come home in one piece. I’m the daughter of two Army veterans. “Veteran’s Day” is not just a calendar notation to me. Nothing I’ve ever read has captured my sense of gratitude to American vets like these lines written by Ben Stein. If everything else he’s ever written is someday forgotten, this should be enough to keep his memory alive.
What title of nobility was ever as great as, simply, “American”? What wild dream of my ancestors in Czarist Russia could compare with what I have now, how I live now? Who makes it possible? The men and women who fight our wars, who have lost legs, who have lost lives, who have lost their minds to the cruelty of war. God bless them day in and day out.
[Excerpted from “Fleeting Beauty” by Ben Stein, from the February 2011 issue of The American Spectator, pages 62-64.]