Don’t wish me a happy Memorial Day. There is nothing happy about the loss of the brave men and women of our armed forces who died in combat defending America. Memorial Day is not a celebration. Memorial Day is a time for reflection, pause, remembrance and thanksgiving for patriots who gave up their own lives to protect the lives and freedom of us all – including the freedom of generations long gone and generations yet unborn. We owe the fallen a debt so enormous that it can never be repaid. Memorial Day is a time to honor the lives of those who would rather die than take a knee when our national anthem is played. But they will fight and die for the rights of those who kneel. This holiday is a time to think of young lives cut short, of wives and husbands turned into widows and widowers, of children growing up without a father or mother, of parents burying their children. Memorial Day is a time to think of might have beens that never were. Of brave Americans who put their country before themselves. Without these heroes, America would not be America. Unfortunately, for many Americans this solemn holiday might as well be called Summer Day – marking the unofficial start of the season of barbecues, days at the beach, time spent on baseball fields and golf courses, hiking and enjoying the great the outdoors. All those things are great – we all appreciate them and they are some of the best things in life. But Memorial Day is not Summer Day. Nor was the holiday created as a way to promote sales of cars, furniture or clothes. Another Memorial Day brings with it a whole lot more than the start of summer. Since last Memorial Day, grass is now growing above the final resting places of many young men and women whose lives were taken too soon while defending our country in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other far-off places many Americans have rarely heard of. When Army SGT La David Johnson, SSG Bryan Black, SFC Jeremiah Johnson and SSG Dustin Wright were killed last October in an ISIS ambush in Niger, many Americans asked: We have troops in Niger? These unknown soldiers lost their lives protecting you – every one of you reading these words. Think about this: Millions of high-school seniors are walking across auditorium stages this season, receiving their diplomas. Most will go on to college or jobs, but some will choose a career of military service, joining the second generation of American warriors fighting in the Global War on Terror – a war that began with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that took the lives of almost 3,000 people in our homeland. Most of these new recruits – who were not even born or who were just infants when the 9/11 attacks took place – will make it home just fine. But some will not. I pray that I am wrong, but the sad truth is that the number of American war dead on Memorial Day in 2019 will be higher than it is on this Memorial Day. On Memorial Day, I salute my brothers and sisters-in-arms who have served beside me in the War on Terror. My heart especially goes out to the families of those who did not return home. In fact, I think about all those who served and those who have given their lives fighting for America from our county’s earliest days in the Revolutionary War. They all have my gratitude. We think we are strong, but in war any of us can be turned into just a memory in an instant.
Indeed.. As someone who has been there and done that myself, in Afghanistan as a “field grade” Army Intelligence officer, I know all too well what Robert is talking about. Thanks to former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, the man credited for killing Bin Laden, for his sobering thoughts on this Memorial Day. I agree.. Please don’t wish me a “happy Memorial Day.” For more of Robert’s op/ed, click on the text above.