As many of you know I am not an overly religious man, yet for me Veteran’s Day is one of the most sacred days of my year. This year doubly so. Christ died 2000 years ago, and a religion was born from his death, and ultimately his ascension. Yet for me, November 11th each year is a reminder to me of who I am. I reflect and today, I found myself deeply saddened by Veteran’s day. COL William Wood, my Battalion Commander, believed with his heart in our purpose here 10,000 miles from home in a strange land. He died honoring his oath to defend his nation against all enemies, he believed when I doubted. Again Duty sir!
CPT Raymond Hill, a man who in his noticeable absence I can only in a way a soldier can call friend. I knew him for only 3 years. His soul was gentle, and his heart enormous. He met his end trying only to help bring smiles to the faces of the children of this land for he truly enjoyed their company and saw the purity and innocence of their youth when I would not. He died believing in his cause, his end was also to a higher cause than just his own life. Honour sir! Ray’s death has hit me hardest, because each day I was here, I spoke to him. Each day, I saw him, and each day his smile was genuine, and real. Like in grade school when you met someone you liked they became your friend on the very same day. Ray was like that, when he got a box from home, he shared it with everyone. Each day I see his empty desk, my heart stops, and I get a little colder.
Ray would not have let me feel down, he would have told me some joke, or given me a reflection of home, and I would have felt better if only for a minute. I knew all of our fallen, and thus this Veteran’s day is even more sacred to me. Tonight I am still here, and though my hand is shaking, from fatigue, sadness, and anger. I am still here. Though this war may be increasingly unpopular, we remain. The job of the soldier transcends opinion, politics, or popular opinion. The job of the soldier is to do what despite opinion must be done, and despite my opinion here; daily I am reminded by the wall of the fallen, and the soldiers I see daily humble me just by being here. It is my honour to serve with them. It is my honor to be here. I knew them all, I can still see them where last I saw them. I hear their voices as I past by the shadows of where they once stood. And at each memorial to the honored dead, I stood a little taller as taps echoed their memories. This war is indeed different. It is not Tripoli, or Luzon, it is not reminiscent of Foy, or Gettysburg, it is not Berlin, or Tokyo. It is towns that yet again we didn’t know existed before we got here. It is towns that we still can not easily pronounce. It is specs on the ground where history was born, it is a place where far too many of our young have grown old beyond their years. It is a place where far too many of us paid for freedom with blood. It is a place where my faith in God and humanity have been shattered. It is a place where my faith in God and humanity have been reaffirmed. It is a place where I come to grips with my own life, and the possibility of my end. Yet, despite it all and despite world opinion it is a place where I have found the faith to believe in something that I am willing to fight to the death to defend. To the agnostic, or the atheist here there is more at stake. To the agnostic and atheist this life is all there is, so to be willing to risk it all, to be willing to die for our way of life to me that is just huge. I really want to believe, and despite it all I falter. Yet despite it all I…we are holding the line, and more importantly we are crossing said line, and pushing back with all that we have, so that those of you at home don’t have to sleep with one eye open. Sleep well, for we are here. Semper Adsumus. I push my doubt aside and stand next to better men than me, and we move forward…together. I have wanted to do many things with my life; be a good husband, write, teach, hold office etc etc… The one thing that I have done for the entirety of my adult life I have been in and remain in uniform; what this says I do not know, but what I do know is this. Here, and now, of all the things I have wanted to be, I have always been a soldier.
Happy Veteran’s Day… My mind is lost and words escape me, so I’ll say this. Semper Paratus, we are always ready. Semper Fidelis, always faithfu;, and finally Semper Adsumus…we are always here.