Like many Americans, I continue to be amazed at the tremendous valor and humility of our military past and present fighting and protecting the very freedoms we welcome everyday. I never want to take their selfless service for granted. Since 9/11, our armed forces have been fighting what some would describe as the impossible -- the Global War on Terror -- including the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. They train and train then train some more. They answer the call of duty from their commander in chief swiftly and without hesitation. Most will tell you they are simply doing their job; a kind of work that carries with it immense risk and sacrifice. Of course, any of what I say here I believe to be only assumptions or knowledge gained from reading. My words are not first hand as I do not serve in the military, and over the last 10 years, I am reminded by my husband I am too old to serve in our military. So, I suppose my desktop books of U.S. Army Survival Handbook, Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, Audie Murphy’s To Hell and Back, and Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor will have to avail. As will the American flag hanging in my office, the black and white photo of my father in his U.S. Air Force uniform while stationed at Goose Air Force Base in Canada, and imprecise conversations with my brother-in-law on his time as a Master Gunner in Operation Desert Storm. All of this should suffice.
Needless to say, I can get absorbed in the awe-inspiring accounts of heroism coming out of our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are hundreds of remarkable stories of bravery and patriotism and acts of putting duty before desire, honor above home. They are the stories of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice; they are the stories of a band of brothers who suffered life-changing injuries. While we willingly laud our fallen and justifiably recoil at the carnage they’ve endured, we mustn’t shy away from the fate of our wounded. The atrocities of war are not solely represented by the Old Glory-draped coffins carried in the bellies of military aircraft, but are epitomized as well by those surviving with tremendous, horrific physical and mental scars. The brothers, the families of the fallen along with our wounded and their broken bodies can be an uncomfortable reminder for many of the true nature of war.
However, we can lessen, though only a portion of their burdens, by honoring and remembering. We can give respect to their accounts of astonishing valor and determination on and off the battlefields: the accounts of our brave who will never step foot on their homeland again, and the ones who will return home only to fight yet another conflict -- the war of recovery. We can’t forget the scorching side of recent wars. The families, the wounded are depending on us for success in their recoveries. It is the very least we can do. There are infinite narratives we can honor, we can remember. It is the chronicle of Staff Sgt. Ty Carter who is the fifth living recipient of the nation’s highest military honor for heroic actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Carter, then a specialist, distinguished himself when more than 300 Afghan insurgents launched a coordinated attack on October 3, 2009, in an effort to overrun Combat Outpost Keating, a vulnerable position surrounded by peaks of the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan. While defending the outpost and without regard to his own safety, Spc. Carter “resupplied ammunition to fighting positions, provided first aid to a battle buddy, killed enemy troops, and valiantly risked his own life to save a fellow Soldier who was injured and pinned down by overwhelming enemy fire.” Staff Sgt. Carter, who was also wounded in the fighting, hopes to use his Medal of Honor to help others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Carter is hailed for his gallantry in combat as well as his courage in the other battle he is fighting since home.
I am remarkably inspired by the lionheartedness of Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy, “Murph,” who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan on June 5, 2005. I will not divulge the details from that day as the movie, “Lone Survivor” will be released in just one week. It portrays the heroism of Lt. Murphy and his Red Wings brothers. With his undaunted courage and intrepid fighting spirit, Lt. Murphy showed inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death. There is the story of Sgt. Dennis Weichel, Jr who died from injuries he sustained when struck by a MRAP after moving an Afghan child to safety.
So many more -- countless stories of valor and selfless sacrifice that deserve our respect and attention are right in front of us. Understanding, learning these stories is the very least we can do. But it’s a start. And when we want to give of ourselves physically as a reminder of our brave, start each day with the Murph WOD. It’d make him proud….