Honor and Privilege

I received several emails from some friends this morning. It gave me a bit of a shock. The one that started it included this line…

”…and a special THANK YOU to those of you who have fought for the FREEDOMS that I and my family have today! You all ROCK!”

Until the moment I read that I hadn’t realized that I was one of the recipients of my Nation’s thanks today. Every reminder of Memorial Day I have seen on TV or read on the interwebz has reminded me of those who went before, those who suffered through years of hardship, of those who “gave their last full measure of devotion” and of the families and loved ones left to carry on. Of those who still suffer on a lonely post in brutal conditions, far away from their loved ones, and of those loved ones, living each and every day with a constant fear that something will go wrong.

It’s humbling and I must admit a little embarrassing. Thank you for including me but all I ever did was a job that I loved. I should be thanking all of America; you are the ones who gave me the opportunity to lead your sons and daughters. A lifetime of working with the finest Soldiers ever to walk the face of the earth. To see the transformation from bedraggled, ill-disciplined punk to proud, barrel-chested, steely-eyed Soldier is a privilege few get to witness.

To give my last swallow of water to a comrade in 120 degree desert heat, to have a comrade shoulder my load when I was hurting and may not have made it alone. To see the abject terror in a Soldier’s eyes as he steps up to the wind whipped, wide open door on a C 130, with nothing but the blackest night awaiting his entry. Then to meet that same young Paratrooper on the Drop Zone later, overflowing with adrenaline and pride at having faced his fear and survived. You can see the spark in his eyes even in the dark; it will blind you if you’re wearing night vision goggles.

When circumstances and the ever present need to “complete the mission” have forced me to ask my Soldiers to do the impossible, then to see them grit their teeth, square their shoulders and do it. Impossible isn’t in their vocabulary, failure isn’t an option.

When Michelle Obama experienced pride in her country for the first time a few months ago, deep down, beneath a layer of disgust and another of contempt was a kernel of pity. What a miserable excuse for a life she has led and I can say that. I can make that judgment. My life has been the polar opposite. America has given me a lifetime of pride and accomplishment, shoulder to shoulder with America’s finest, America’s sons and daughters.

I won’t claim to speak for others in my shoes, but for myself…

No thanks are necessary, please save your thanks for those better than me. I put my heart and soul into my service, but I came away with riches undreamt by Kings. Thank you for allowing me the Honor and the Privilege.