I received this from a fellow 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association colleague of mine today, I wish I could say I wrote it myself, because the author truly understands what it is to be a soldier, and as I read it, I thought to myself, I could not have said it better Sarah!
I hope you enjoy it, I know I did!
Service itself is our honor
Saturday, March 21
United States Army
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining
before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to
that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that
we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
– Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
A few nights ago, I walked a quiet mile with hundreds of other service
members. It was a clear night in Bagram, Afghanistan. Although it was
late, the birds were singing, perhaps roused by the unusual occurrence
of people walking under their trees at the late hour. Soft voices broke
the solemnity, but no words were discernible. Suddenly, as if on cue,
soldiers, airmen, seamen, marines, broke off the sidewalk and lined the
road, spacing themselves regularly and assuming a position of silent
watchfulness. The honor cordon had formed.
Heads began to turn right as flashing blue lights appeared far down the
road. As the vehicles neared, one by one, service members assumed the
position of attention and rendered the hand salute. In the back of an
open truck sat eight military members, and between them, at their feet,
was a flag draped casket.
As I rendered my salute, I thought about the fallen soldier. I did not
know his name, his unit or his home. I never saw his face or spoke to
his family. I did not know why he volunteered for the Army or what he
was doing when he was killed. But there was much I did know. I knew he
had fought and died in an honorable cause, a cause that had little to do
with our policy on Afghanistan. This soldier had volunteered to put his
very life on the line in service to his nation and his brothers-in-arms.
I see no more honorable cause that that.
In a column, Mr. Putney has again raised the debate about the sacrifice
of America's “sons and daughters” in uniform. Some have argued that we
must continue the fight to honor their memory “so that they have not
died in vain.” Others argue we must stop the wars to save soldiers from
this fate. I think an essential understanding of what motivates those of
us in uniform is missing in this debate.
We are not your sons and daughters, whom you must protect and defend. We
are your sword and your shield. We are men and women who volunteer to
place our lives on the line so you do not have to. We do not decide when
or where we will be sent. We go. You are our advocates, not our parents.
We trust you to care for our families, to hold our jobs, pay for our
equipment, salary and medical care and yes, to honor our sacrifice. We
trust you to vote for good political leadership, to speak out against
bad policy decisions and to demand public accountability. However, we do
not count on you to explain the honorable character of our service. We
are ennobled by the very fact we serve.
Our “high moral cause” is one of service to a nation whose principles we
believe in. We miss the point of political debate when we distill it
down to numbers of service member deaths. Debate should be about the
policy that leads us in or pulls us out of war. I, as a soldier, am
personally insulted when debate about war becomes not about policy, but
about deaths, because it implies that my service is at best uninformed
or ill-conceived, and at worst valueless.
I know my life is in the hands of others because I choose for it to be
that way. I am not your daughter, a child who must be guided. I have
made my choice and pledge my honor to it. I will thank you to remember
that because we serve our nation, none of us dies in vain, regardless of
the cause; end of debate.
Every day a new Marine enlists or an airman puts on her uniform is a
reminder that our defenders come from people who still believe in our
nation and the values it aspires to, as flawed as we sometimes are. War
does not make our sacrifice honorable, death does not make our service
honorable; service itself is our honor.
We, your American service members, do not see the cause for which we may
give our last full measure of devotion, as our nation's goals in Iraq or
Afghanistan, and perhaps that is the difference. Our cause is our
nation, in all her beautiful, imperfect glory.
So on a dark night in Afghanistan we stood under a velvet sky of a
million stars to honor one man who lay under 50. We never doubted what
he died for. PFC Patrick A. Devoe II died for you, the United States of
America. That, Mr. Putney, is no goof.
I witnessed a similar scene. But the tree lined street was the pile of rubble that used to be the World Trade Center. The soldiers were fire fighters and rescue workers from all over the country.
All work on the pile stopped leaving the scene relatively quiet, an eerie state for lower Manhattan. Those rescue and recovery personnel lined the path at attention, saluting as two of their brothers were carried to a waiting FDNY ambulance.
They remained in place until the ambulance drove out of sight. Then they went back to work.
The feelings are the same.
“While others ran out, they ran in.”
Brought a warm, proud feeling to the heart, and a tear to the eye of this old Cold Warrior.
Thank you, Soldier Albrycht