I need to get something off my chest. This past week, I have been grieving for families I have never met.
Then, I spent the better part of this Thursday night in tears. For starters, let me direct you to the full transcript of General (Ret.) Kelly’s speech, which prompted the tears. If you don’t have time to read that speech, I ask that anyone reading this take two minutes to listen to this brief snippet of General (Ret.) Kelly’s remarks.
This past Memorial Day, I introduced my readers to an elite group of society, known as Gold Star Families. These are families who have lost their loved ones during conflict, while serving in the Armed Forces. On 4 October 2017, four more families became Gold Star Families – the family of Sergeant La David Johnson, the family of Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, the family of Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, and the family of Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright.
Four Special Forces Army soldiers put their lives on the line, and paid the ultimate sacrifice, in Niger, Africa.
President Trump, a man I did not vote for, but confer the respect his current title of Commander in Chief commands, issued a blatantly idiotic statement about how previous presidents did not call the family members of fallen Service Members. This sparked media outrage, which has led to dozens of Gold Star families being interviewed by the press about whether or not they received a phone call from the Commander in Chief at the time their loved one was killed.
Then, on their way to meet the body of their loved one, President Trump called to offer his condolences to the grieving family members. His private moment on the phone with a grief stricken family was made more than public by a congresswoman who has used the moment with the family to turn the entire grieving process into a political statement.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, Service Members take up 1% of our population in the United States.
Special Forces? An even smaller subset.
My husband is not a Special Forces soldier, but he has been honored to serve and deploy with these elite soldiers. One thing I realized when we were in our early stages of being among Special Forces families is that unlike other parts of the Army, the career of soldier for these men is more than a job.
Being Special Forces becomes a way of life. It is something these soldiers live and breathe.
They are proud of the job they do – the changes they help make in this world.
And, they are the most humble soldiers – who typically do not share their war stories, or their experiences.
Instead, their loyalty, duty, and selfless service are blended seamlessly into the fabric of the men they are – of the son, brother, father, and/or husband they present to the rest of us.
President Trump may have failed to convey the message General (Ret.) Kelly clarified. Yet, as a military wife who was already grieving for this family, I knew what President Trump was attempting (and failing) to convey:
Well, let me tell you what I told him. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me — because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war. And when he died, in the four cases we’re talking about, Niger, and my son’s case in Afghanistan — when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth: his friends.
There is nothing more admirable and heroic than someone being willing to selflessly give their life for the life of another.
I don’t fault this Service Member’s mother’s anger toward the President – grief impacts each individual differently, and anger is part of the grieving process.
However, I will fault this particular congresswoman for making this Service Member’s ultimate sacrifice about politics.
Sergeant La David Johnson, Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright did not die for politics.
They were surrounded by each other, fighting for the lives of each other. They were trying to come home – and get each other home – to their families waiting.
As G.K. Chesterton once stated,
The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.
Those four brave souls gave their lives for love of their families and their country.
And, they most likely prayed their surviving family would never be in the position to receive any phone call or letter from the sitting Commander in Chief.
Shame on President Trump – for making Service Members’ deaths political by throwing out actions of previous presidents. As good his intentions may have been, shame on him for not listening to General (Ret.) Kelly’s advice to simply not call the grieving families, and instead send a letter.
More than that, shame on any member of Congress who tries to exploit a family’s grief for the sole purpose of making a Commander in Chief look bad. Shame on any member of Congress who would hear General (Ret.) Kelly’s speech, a Service Member whose own son was killed in combat, and dismiss it as coming from someone who is trying to save his job. Shame on any member of Congress for turning the deaths of outstanding, heroic Service Members into a political tool.
Shame on the media for not headlining the faces and the names of all four Service Members equally. Shame on the media for falling for the brazen political ploy that has come from this horrific tragedy.
Shame on those in our society who remain ignorant of the price Service Members are voluntarily willing to pay for our freedoms. Shame on those in our society who blindly see what the media and politicians want us to see – overlooking the humanity behind these stories. Shame on those who refuse to provide support to our Service Members.
My heart grieves, and my tears flow, for the families and friends of Sergeant La David Johnson, Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright.
These heroes are the most recent faces of the sacrifice our Service Members pay.
These heroes are the faces of the most recent price it takes to serve in our Armed Forces.
Sergeant La David Johnson, Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright deserve better from our society.
All of our Service Members, and by extension, their families, deserve better from our society.
Let’s remember they are our focus. Their sacrifices are our focus. Their lives, and deaths, are our focus.
Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord.
And, may the Lord’s perpetual Light shine upon them.