Their honorable sacrifice

James Casto Sparks

He was shivering from the cold as his hunger growled. He attempted closing his eyes, but distant gunfire interrupted any intended rest. Exhaustion plagued his bones as mud seeped into his shoes. The fear of death and disease was a constant worry, but his faith kept him in the fight for his life. He witnessed and endured more than most people could handle as he watched his buddies die from both battle wounds and illness.

James Casto Sparks’ view of the world was from inside a loathsome trench in France. It was 1919, and his dreams of returning to his beloved Tennessee home were all that kept him hopeful.

Over 100,000 Tennesseans served in WWI. While my great uncle returned home, 3400 of his state’s draftees and volunteers did not.

On December 7, 1941, Casto’s nephew, Donald, listened to the radio as news of the attack on Pearl Harbor unfolded.  Shortly after, he and many of his relatives and friends enlisted in the military without hesitation. Donald joined the US Navy and was deployed to the Pacific aboard the Chaumont in 1942.

He was one of 315,501 who served our nation from Tennessee and returned home.  However, 5,731 did not.

In 1964, my brother, Donald’s nephew, boarded a Navy destroyer headed for Vietnam. Many of the Lieutenant’s pals from Tennessee and Georgia were called to this faraway land. 357,915 served their country from two southern states, but tragically, nearly 3,000 lost their lives.

The numbers alone cannot capture the true impact of war on the American fighters who bravely fought and died for our freedoms. Excluding the Civil War, a total of 684,447 warriors were lost in all the conflicts involving our nation. Those who did return to our shores were forever changed, some bearing the physical and mental scars of war. Their bravery, however, contributed to making our nation stronger, safer, and more secure.

Today, we battle each other over who or what is best for America. Is it Trump, Biden, Republicans, or Democrats?

We often find ourselves on the brink of anger because each of us believes we know what is most suitable for the nation. “We need to do this or that!” “We must change the laws to create a better country!” Groups form, and violence erupts, fueled by social media and conspiracy theories.

Bullying, greed, egos, incivility, and distrust must diminish because our ancestors, who carried the weight of this nation, deserve our humble respect instead of our infighting. We should appreciate their hard work and sacrifices to maintain our freedom to worship, vote, and speak.

What is best for America is for us to become better people. We must develop more courage to do what is honorable for everyone, not just what suits us individually. We are a nation of diverse people with different opinions, and we must accept that. It takes wisdom and open-mindedness to find common ground.

When our country declared war, we assembled. When the terrorists attacked, we merged. Since the inception of America, we have been united in defeating our enemies.

To achieve greatness, we must emulate the dedication of those who served in muddy trenches, on ships in distant lands, or on the ground in rice paddies and deserts. These men and women joined together to defend the nation they loved and protect their fellow citizens from the terrors they faced.

The true heroes who have made America a remarkable nation are the brave individuals who safeguard it. They are the ones who are willing to give their lives so that the rest of us enjoy living.

Integrity, patriotism, and bravery are not found in demeaning one another but in our gratitude. It is discovered in listening to all ideas and finding solutions to our nation’s problems. We won wars because we presented a united front against our enemies.  How do we plan to win another one if we cannot live in harmony and respect our neighbors?

Those who divide us with their theories and groups, distortions, closed-mindedness, and harmful words will destroy all the soldiers battled for. Were their deaths in vain? Do we think of them before spewing hatred, sowing division, or typing words of bias?

We live today with the freedoms and rights the courageous warriors gave their lives to maintain. What can we do to preserve their honorable sacrifice?

Exist with honor.

Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause. — Abraham Lincoln


Lynn Walker Gendusa is a Georgia author and columnist. Her latest book, “Southern Comfort: Stories of Family, Friendship, Fiery Trials, and Faith,” is available on Amazon. She can be reached at

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