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Memorial Day memories

 

In recent times, Memorial Day has become the unofficial start of summer, with area residents making their treks down the shore to celebrate the holiday.

Unfortunately, many people have actually forgotten that Memorial Day is really about celebrating the veterans who passed away – having made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy our freedom.

Still, to me, Memorial Day isn’t just about remembering those who passed but also honoring all those who have served and currently are serving.

For me, that inspires mention of two special people: Sgt. Thomas Geraghty and Gunners Mate 3rd Class Anthony T. Machcinski.

My grandfather, Anthony T. Machcinski, saw action in World War II, beginning in 1943 and completing his service on the destroyer USS Lyman K. Swenson in 1946.

While I could recount several hundred stories my grandfather told about his wartime experience, one in particular comes to mind.

During his shipboard service in the Pacific, my grandfather typically sat with his feet hanging off the side of the ship while en route to his next destination. One day, out in the water, he saw two white trails of wake. While this would mean nothing to you or me today, white wakes in parallel straight patterns usually meant torpedoes from a submarine.

My grandfather sat, frozen, with not much time to react to the alarming sight.

Finally, as the trails got closer they took a sharp hook towards the front of the ship. Scanning the side of the ship, my grandfather got the surprise of his life, discovering that the pair of white trails had not been from Japanese torpedoes, but rather, from two dolphins who wanted to swim next to the ship.

I tell that story to explain this point: Appreciate our veterans. Three years ago December, my grandfather passed away, and after years of retelling his stories, I can’t think of one time I fully appreciated their worth. Sure, I understood that my grandfather helped protect our country, serving in some of the nastiest battles World War II had conjured up, but I never really could thank him for what he did.

With that experience in mind, and with several more years of life experience under my belt, I think of Sgt. Thomas Geraghty.

Tom and I went to school together at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, playing rugby and football together. He became like a brother to me. Since entering the Army a couple of years ago, Tom has put in two tours overseas, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, and is already anticipating a third trip back over.

Now more than ever, I can appreciate Tom’s sacrifices to continue providing me the opportunity to write articles like the ones you see this week. I’ll never forget when I talked to Tom before he left for Fort Riley in Kansas in January. I asked him why he was so gung-ho about getting back to Iraq. His reply: “Why would I want someone with a family to sacrifice what they have, when I don’t have those same responsibilities?”

With that in mind, I want to thank all the veterans, both living and deceased, for everything they have sacrificed. I hope you had a happy and healthy Memorial Day.

– Anthony J. Machcinski

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