As reported earlier this summer in the MDJ, I returned to my alma mater Notre Dame as part of a leadership fellowship and spiritual sabbatical. It was there on Sunday afternoon, buried in writings by Aristotle and some early Christian authors, that Thomas Hartwell from the MDJ called me about a column I had written during the Obama presidency concerning Afghanistan. The call was relatively brief and my comments were based on my experience with strategic planning and operations in military campaigns. Nevertheless, as I returned and tried to focus on my assigned readings, I found myself thinking about the 13 members of the armed forces who gave “their full measure of devotion” to their country and to their buddies.
Aristotle assumes that in “praising and valuing virtuous people, we do not value simply their relative tendency to produce virtuous actions; we also value the character that they display in their actions.” I believe that Marine Sergeant Nicole Gee epitomized what is best about today’s warriors when she said shortly before her death, “I love my job.” The character displayed by her and those that died or were wounded alongside her do not need adjectives; their actions spoke for themselves. They demonstrated qualities of which all parents should be proud.
Many veterans have been asked if they thought their time in Afghanistan was worth the sacrifice. The answer should be an unequivocal yes! If anything was accomplished post-Vietnam, it was a multi-generational promise that no veteran should be the scapegoat for policy decisions made in Washington D.C., something those who served in Southeast Asia were made to suffer. The men and women who served in uniform during the wars in Southeast Asia did so with honor, commitment and courage.
America appreciates them and we should ensure that our government fulfills its obligations to these patriots by providing them the sustained benefits and health care that they earned from our longest war.
I have had the difficult responsibility of delivering the heartbreaking news to a Marine wife that her husband had been lost at sea. I have also had the equally sad duty of informing parents about the death of their Marine son. There is little that can assuage this kind sorrow.
That America was not successful in its mission in Afghanistan does not diminish the efforts of these brave Americans who showed us the true cost of fighting for freedom and human rights. One of the early Christian writers wrote words which still resonate today in defining the lives of these heroes: Life was what they asked for and He gave it to them, and this they shared with their neighbor when they went off completely victorious to God. Peace they had always loved and it was peace for which they commended to us forever.
May the Lord bring comfort to all the families and friends of these 13 valiant Americans. May these heroes find rest in the eternal peace that they earned and deserve. Semper fidelis and Godspeed.