Masters of the Air

The best television series I have seen in quite some time is Apple TV’s Masters of the Air. This miniseries follows the actions of the 100th Bomb Group during World War II. 

The 100th became known as the “Bloody 100th” because most airmen didn’t survive the war. The losses included 184 missing air crews, 229 planes either lost or salvaged, 757 men killed or missing in action, and another 923 taken as prisoners of war. 

While there are several inspiring moments throughout the miniseries, there is one moment that, to me, captures the heart of Memorial Day. In the last episode, the Allies are closing in on one of the prisoner-of-war camps, and while violence is breaking out inside the camp between the prisoners and their German prison guards, Major John “Bucky” Egan weaves his way through the crowd to the building flying the Nazi flag. Lifted up by his fellow soldiers onto a small roof, Bucky climbs the flagpole. The soldiers cheer wildly, almost to the point where it appears that no one is even acting anymore. Bucky then drops the Nazi flag to the men, who rip it to pieces.

He then hangs the Stars and Stripes. 

Bucky then looks down at the mass of men — black and white soldiers, all together — cheering and sensing that they were on the cusp of what they had longed for all those years of war: peacetime and home. 

Bucky surveys the scene once last time and then puts his forehead on the flagpole, appearing to pray silently. 

What occurred to me watching this episode was that peace only came through immense loss and sacrifice. 

This is something to pause and consider on this Memorial Day. 

A Memorial Day Message 

I’m not one to glamorize war. I’ve read enough history to know we should avoid it at all costs. 

I have also read enough about the World War II generation to know that their sacrifices for humankind are almost incomprehensible. Those who served in the 100th, for example, either did not make it home or were never the same.

Their sacrifices freed the world from the oppression of Nazism. They were a necessary and costly sacrifice. 

When I think of Memorial Day, I always think of the sacrifices that ALL the men and women of our armed forces have made through the years. I think of those who served in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, and World War II. Regardless of what I might think about the particulars of each conflict, I salute and give thanks to those who have served. 

And this includes all the family members who mourn for those who didn’t come home. They have served our country as well. 

Thank you to these people. 

They are the real heroes and real leaders. 

I pause this blog to reflect on and thank them all.