WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) recognized five of Alabama’s fallen soldiers and their families in honor of Memorial Day. The stories shared are those of Officer Marsha Ratchford from Prichard, Sergeant Elbert Phillips from Huntsville, Sergeant Jason Jordan from Elba, Private James Joshua Jr. from Gadsden, and Private Thomas Stagg from Birmingham.
Excerpts from the Senator’s remarks can be found below, and his complete remarks can be viewed here.
“The first stanza of our National Anthem ends: ‘ O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?’ We sing this part as a triumphant declaration, but if you read the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner, the sentence actually ends with a question mark. Francis Scott Key intended this line to be sung as a question rather than a statement. That’s fitting because while our freedom may [seem] concrete, hate and evil threaten the security of our freedom from one generation to the next.”
“Over the years, our national anthem took on a feeling of confidence and assurance, rather than uncertainty. And that’s thanks to the millions of men and women who bravely answered the call to serve. Many soldiers lost their lives to give us the security we all enjoy, and the assurance we are proud of. That is what we keep in our hearts and on our minds as we honor the fallen on this Memorial Day.”
“Throughout the course of our nation’s history, our freedom has been protected by those who stood toe to toe with hate and evil, endured sleepless nights on the battlefield, rough days at sea, harsh conditions in the desert, [and] years living in far corners of the globe, so that we as Americans can sleep peacefully in the comfort and security of our home.”
“Sadly, some of our nation’s heroes never returned. My state of Alabama lost 2,500 soldiers during World War I, 5,114 soldiers during World War II, and hundreds and hundreds of others in wars since.”
“Many of our fallen servicemembers had not yet reached the prime of their life. Some were still in high school when they answered the call to service. That is true for Private First Class James Joshua Jr. of Gadsden, Alabama, who left high school to become a United States Marine at the young age of 18.”
“Colonel Leonard shared that his mother’s dying wish was for her little brother to be found and returned to Birmingham to be buried alongside her and their parents. Five years ago, Colonel Leonard saw his mother’s wish fulfilled.”
“It is estimated more than 81,600 missing American soldiers are still missing since World War I…And some families are still searching for answers. Like Teresa Schmitt of Huntsville, Alabama, who was only eight years old when her father, U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Elbert Phillips’, airplane crashed in the MeKong River during the Vietnam War.”
“Rodney’s story is another heartbreaking example of Gold Star children who faced a childhood they didn’t ask for, but were given as a result of the unthinkable sacrifices their loved ones made for freedom. Their courage is no doubt a testament to the brave parents who raised them.”
“It is impossible to speak of Gold Star families without mentioning the parents who are robbed of the joy of seeing their children grow up and have families of their own. Danny Jordan, from Elba, Alabama, is one such Gold Star parent. Danny’s son, U.S. Army Sergeant Jason Jordan of the 101st Airborne Division, was killed in the Iraqi village of Tallifar on the night of July 20, 2003, when his Humvee was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades.”
“These are the stories of Americans who gave their lives for freedom’s cause—mothers, brothers, sisters, and sons who became heroes to all of us… These heroes lived lives of impact, driven by a desire to serve their country at any cost. We tell their story to keep their memory alive and ensure their sacrifices are never, never forgotten.”
“And as long as there are brave men and women like those I’ve mentioned today, we can continue to sing the national anthem, not with a question mark, but with a declaration that we are the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’ As Memorial Day approaches, I hope we will take the time to honor America’s fallen, along with the brave families who they left behind, and always remember that our freedoms were won by men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Senate Armed Services Committees. During the month of May, Senator Tuberville is honoring the sacrifices made by current and former service members as part of Military Appreciation Month. A special ‘thank you’ to the families of the fallen who graciously shared their stories with us.