“I always think I do not want to call you because I will be homesick, but I end up doing it and leave the phone tent with a smile on my face”

So wrote Marine 2LT Robert Kelly to his wife, Heather, in a final email before stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan. He continued:

I love you so much and appreciate you being a great sport in all of this craziness. . . . One month down and a lot of months to go, but I am doing what I want to do with my life.

Military spouses are a special breed. It’s not an easy gig to sign up for, sending your better half out to defend a nation that doesn’t always remember the sacrifices your family makes because so few actually fight to defend it.

Kelly was the son of Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Kelly, who noted the gulf separating civilians from the military sacrifice over the last decade in a Veteran’s Day speech last November.  He did so without mentioning his son’s death four days before.  From the speech:

As we sit here right now, we should not lose sight of the fact that America is at risk in a way it has never been before.  Our enemy fights for an ideology based on an irrational hatred of who we are.  Make no mistake about that no matter what certain elements of the “chattering class” relentlessly churn out.  We did not start this fight, and it will not end until the extremists understand that we as a people will never lose our faith or our courage.  If they persist, these terrorists and extremists and the nations that provide them sanctuary, they must know they will continue to be tracked down and captured or killed.  America’s civilian and military protectors both here at home and overseas have for nearly nine years fought this enemy to a standstill and have never for a second “wondered why.”  They know, and are not afraid.  Their struggle is your struggle.  They hold in disdain those who claim to support them but not the cause that takes their innocence, their limbs, and even their lives.  As a democracy-”We the People”-and that by definition is every one of us-sent them away from home and hearth to fight our enemies.  We are all responsible.  I know it doesn’t apply to those of us here tonight but if anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight-America’s survival-then they are lying to themselves and rationalizing away something in their lives, but, more importantly, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to the nation.

Since this generation’s “day of infamy” the American military has handed our ruthless enemy defeat-after-defeat but it will go on for years, if not decades, before this curse has been eradicated.  We have done this by unceasing pursuit day and night into whatever miserable lair Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies, might slither into to lay in wait for future opportunities to strike a blow at freedom.  America’s warriors have never lost faith in their mission, or doubted the correctness of their cause.
They face dangers everyday that their countrymen safe and comfortable this night cannot imagine.  But this has always been the case in all the wars our military have been sent to fight.  Not to build empires, or enslave peoples, but to free those held in the grip of tyrants while at the same time protecting our nation, its citizens, and our shared values.  And, ladies and gentlemen, think about this, the only territory we as a people have ever asked for from any nation we have fought alongside, or against, since our founding, the entire extent of our overseas empire, as a few hundred acres of land for the 24 American cemeteries scattered around the globe.  It is in these cemeteries where 220,000 of our sons and daughters rest in glory for eternity, or are memorialized forever because their earthly remains are lost forever in the deepest depths of the oceans, or never recovered from far flung and nameless battlefields.  As a people, we can be proud because billions across the planet today live free, and billions yet unborn will also enjoy the same freedom and a chance at prosperity because America sent its sons and daughters out to fight and die for them, as much as for us.

Yes, we are at war, and are winning, but you wouldn’t know it because successes go unreported, and only when something does go sufficiently or is sufficiently controversial, it is highlighted by the media elite that then sets up the “know it all” chattering class to offer their endless criticism. These self-proclaimed experts always seem to know better-but have never themselves been in the arena.  We are at war and like it or not, that is a fact.  It is not Bush’s war, and it is not Obama’s war, it is our war and we can’t run away from it.  Even if we wanted to surrender, there is no one to surrender to.  Our enemy is savage, offers absolutely no quarter, and has a single focus and that is either kill every one of us here at home, or enslave us with a sick form of extremism that serves no God or purpose that decent men and women could ever grasp.  St Louis is as much at risk as is New York and Washington, D.C…  Given the opportunity to do another 9/11, our merciless enemy would do it today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter. If, and most in the know predict that it is only a matter of time, he acquires nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, these extremists will use these weapons of mass murder against us without a moment’s hesitation. These butchers we fight killed more than 3,000 innocents on 9/11.  As horrible as that death toll was, consider for a moment that the monsters that organized those strikes against New York and Washington, D.C. killed only 3,000 not because that was enough to make their sick and demented point, but because he couldn’t figure out how to kill 30,000, or 300,000, or 30 million of us that terrible day.  I don’t know why they hate us, and I don’t care.  We have a saying in the Marine Corps and that is “no better friend, no worse enemy, than a U.S. Marine.”  We always hope for the first, friendship, but are certainly more than ready for the second.  If its death they want, its death they will get, and the Marines will continue showing them the way to hell if that’s what will make them happy.

Read the rest and remind yourself that Kelly had just lost his son.

And I dare you to read the Washington Post article without tears welling or a lump in your throat. Then thank God that you have men and women who sign up for this and whose families pray the uniform never shows up on their doorstep fully knowing it could come at any moment between 0600 and 1000. Doorbells are dangerous during deployments.

My deepest condolences to the Kelly family. Thank you. Semper Fi.

UPDATE: Kathryn Jean Lopez calls the WaPo story requisite reading for every American because

We owe one percent so much.


5 Responses

  1. […] the past decade have wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. The impact ripples. But families tend to raise and shoulder the burden of service. Society at large doesn’t feel it, not with 8% of 18-29 year-olds serving in the […]

  2. […] hear the National Anthem and not get goosebumps. Or Taps and not feel the sting of tears. But when one percent of Americans serve, you realize that goosebumps and tears aren’t the […]

  3. […] past decade have wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. The impact ripples. But families tend to raise and shoulder the burden of service. Society at large doesn’t feel it, not with 8% of 18-29 year-olds serving in the […]

  4. Honor still exists.

    • I know. I’m surrounded by it daily. Quite thankful for that, really. Keeps me grounded to see such fine men who live and fight their ideals.

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