Thursday, August 4, 2016
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Shed No Tears - Honor The Fallen
In what can only be described as an Irish Wake, I was invited to observe patriots celebrate the life of one of their ranks who, tragically, had fallen. Some of the finest men on the planet gathered that day. The best of the best! The most elite! Not because of money or power but because they possess something in short supply in the world right now - integrity - character.
It began with an admonition that this wasn't the place for tears, sadness, or remorse. There would be memorials and a funeral where all could openly weep over our fallen brother's loss - his sacrifice for America. At these very words I felt a lump in my throat as I held back the tears. I choked tears back because I felt, deep in my soul, I was standing in the midst of giants. They bare the entire country on their shoulders. This next couple of hours was a sacred time for heroes gathered to reminisce about a life lived at twice the speed of sound: a life capable of attaining 65,000-foot elevation, and of turning on a dime; every maneuver to protect our country!
Everybody there was invited to drink our patriot's drink of choice - Red Bull and vodka or to smoke a cigarette from a pack of Marlboro Reds that was sitting on the bar. All grabbed their glass and mixed their version - some didn't mix at all. But all raised those glasses high to say goodbye to an old friend. After the toast the first story had everyone roaring with laughter about the funny things pilots invent to stave off boredom when weather grounds them far away from home. Each story would remind someone of another story filled with laughter and valor and so it continued. Someone lit up a Marlboro Red took a puff and passed the cigarette around. Even those who did not smoke took a puff to see their breath and to understand that their friend, battle buddy, and brother could breathe no more. They acknowledged that he was true to them and to his contract with all of America. He did it right! He may have lived his life at Mach 2 where things happen fast but his split second decisions likely led to his own death protecting others from being in harm's way.
He was an experienced pilot. He had altitude when he radioed that the plane wasn't responding. Why didn't he eject and save his own life? We know the answer. From the stories of those that knew him well, he crashed in a remote area because he put mission first - above himself. He could not eject knowing that he would live and endanger others. He could only punch-out once he knew that others would not be hurt. By then, unfortunately, it was too late.
I would feel the tears well up inside but in honor of the courage and bravery in the room I would choke them back. Finally, I could sense that I was not alone in holding back my tears. Nobody shed a tear that day because they had walled them up using laughter as the mortar, and stories of valor as the bricks. Were they just stories? I sensed that each man in that room would have done the same thing. They were the bricks of valor. The oceans of tears created that day are safely stowed away. When the laughter gives way to the memorials, the funeral, the crumbling mortar of that wall will create a tsunami wave of tears that will attempt to wash away the grief we all feel for this tremendous loss. The bricks of valor will quickly return to their duty shoring up the fortress - building upon our fallen hero's legacy as well as the legacy of all of those since the American Revolution that carved our nation out of the wilderness.
When we read the headlines of corrupt cops or slimy politicians or journalists that spin the truth, don't despair. Know that there are those still left in this fragile world that put mission above self: those with integrity and character: those that cannot be corrupted. Men and women who will protect you from all of the evil that is in this world. They signed a contract to put their lives on the line and that contract will not be broken - for any amount of money or under any circumstances even if it means blood is spilled a single drop at a time.
Honor the fallen! Honor the Constitution of the United States of America. We are only a nation because of the tradition where men and women put their service to us, to "we the people," above their own self interest. This is America's strength. We are in their debt. Be grateful for every drop of blood that has already been spilled and stands ready to be spilled to keep us safe - to keep us moving toward "the more perfect union."