Today is about honoring all those Americans who said, “I will bear the risk of our national decisions and I will carry the sword and shield of this nation”.
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
~ George Orwell
Every man or woman who served honorably in this nations military carried out an incredibly noble and selfless act. They agreed to willingly exchange their lives in support of the principles on which this nation is formed. Today is about the heroic act of supporting a cause to the fullest measure.
I hear CNN use the term “hero” to refer to a teacher who plants a tree with his class, a businesswoman who spends her spare time at a soup kitchen feeding the homeless, or a doctor who has donates an extraordinary amount of money to a children’s charity. While I am thrilled that such people exist, I feel sorry for many of my countrymen who apparently do not have the privilege of understanding what the term “hero” means. Community service is exceptional, noteworthy and commendable, but it is not heroic. I was fortunate to spend a portion of my life in the presence of heroes and to get to know some of them.
When Byron Owen woke up in the hospital after surviving his third IED Strike, it was days before he recognized the woman at his side was his wife, and the uniform in the corner belonged to him. Despite several concussions and months of recovery, when he could dress himself again he fought his way through the doctors and medical boards that discouraged his desire to return to active service. When he had defeated them, he volunteered for and was selected to serve with a force reconnaissance platoon.
Approximately a year later, he again left his wife to serve in Afghanistan where he, Brian Blonder and 30 Marines from First Force Reconnaissance Company engaged in an 8-hour fight that ended one of toughest battles in the war in Afghanistan. They soundly defeated nearly 250 Taliban that day – and they brought every one of their Marines home alive. Byron received a Silver Star and Brian received the Navy Cross for their actions that day. That is different then planting a tree.
Josh Glover was a 1st Lt when he led a platoon in an operation to recover an American vehicle in Fallujah. His platoon was engaged by what is estimated to be a company sized element. He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to direct recovery operations, control air support and defend himself and his fellow Marines at what is described as point blank range. He received a Silver Star for his actions that day.
Five years later he and his team from a Marine Special Operations Company were tasked with recovering the bodies of two American Soldiers who had been left behind. His team was engaged shortly after insert and during the ensuing fight he was personally shot and struck in the leg with a rocket propelled grenade. His heart stopped three times on the medical evacuation flight but they were ultimately able to save his life. It was two years in recovery before he finally accepted that the physical damage to this leg was too severe to allow him to continue to serve. He will receive his MBA next year from Duke University, and is still active with veteran’s affairs in his community. That is different then writing a check.
I was privileged to work with a man who had just returned from leading a team of Marines from a joint taskforce of Army and Marine Special Operations members to capture or kill a Taliban leader. A numerically superior force engaged them almost immediately on their arrival at the target area. Despite being wounded, he exposed himself to a heavy volume of enemy fire over 20 meters of open ground to recover a wounded member of his team. Four other team members were also critically wounded in the engagement.
He was able to consolidate the survivors and coordinate their evacuation, ultimately saving all but one of their lives and returning them to their families. At the same time he was coordinating air strikes that made the unit successful in killing the primary target and an estimated 40 Taliban fighters in the process. He was awarded a Silver Star for his actions. He continues to work for the United States Government. That is different then feeding the homeless.
These men, and the countless other veterans who we are honoring today are our neighbors, families and friends, and they have lives that may look very much like your own. They too are members of our community. They too may volunteer, serve on special projects and support community causes. They may also serve the under privileged in our community. Regardless of their other activities, their contribution to the nation is unique and worthy of special recognition. Their contribution is heroic.
Every person who served agreed to risk and if necessary sacrifice their lives to give us the opportunity to build the communities in which we live. They are not better, nor would they proclaim to be, but they are different. Today is about honoring the sacrifices of those who served and those who continue to do so. I will be forever grateful to have walked in the presence of heroes and I will forever consider myself fortunate to have been able to call them friends during my lifetime.
Veterans day is about celebrating the gift of the men and women of our armed forces. Sometimes thank you is inadequate and today is that day. Do something for the heroes in your communities.
~ Patrick Henry