My name is Michael Freligh and a proud member of American Legion Post 24 in Blytheville, Ark. Our family military history goes back many years, a history that I am very proud of.
My father and his three older brothers all served in World War II at the same time, in different branches, and in different parts of the world. One was the pilot of a B-24 stationed in England. Another served for 32 active duty years beginning in what was first called the Army Air Corps, later the United States Air Force. He served as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 with the 97th Bomb Group 340th Bomb Squadron. The 340th was commanded by Col. Paul Tibbetts (who flew the Enola Gay which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.) The name of my uncle's plane was the "Flying Flitgun." He flew 50 missions in B-17s and another 75 missions in B-25s over India and China. With the B-17 and B-25 missions he had a total of 125 missions. One of only 7,000 men in U.S. history to get official credit for being in three wars; WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
My father, the only Navy member of his family, served as a signalman on board the USS LCS 49. His ship was struck by enemy forces and sunk near the Solomon Islands (he is the only one of the boys still alive today). The military has always played an important part in my family. During my 22 years in the Army I had the privilege in 1977 of serving as a presidential guard for former President Jimmy Carter. Later I was honored by serving as an aide to five star general, Omar N. Bradley.
In my family we also had those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Among those was an uncle who was killed in Korea while serving with the United States Marines, a brother who was killed in Vietnam while serving in the United States Army, and sadly my own son who served in the United States Army as an EOD sergeant. He was killed at Camp Doha, Kuwait.
And now our family legacy continues with my youngest son serving in the United States Marine Corps. As long as I live, I will never let the memories of my family members who gave of themselves fade away. It is the responsibility of us all to never let them die a second time, but to share their individual stories.