Listen; this is sacred

Stop talking and listen to General Kelly

Jason Criss Howk

Major (retired) U.S. Army

20 October 2017

I have pleaded with my friends, family, and the media to stop making the return home of our fallen military heroes into a political event. Listen to General Kelly (a Gold Star father) and learn about the solemn process of bringing our beloved men and women home from overseas.

He describes a sacred event. A painful moment in so few people’s lives.

99% of America doesn’t understand the process he describes and I am glad he explained it. You could see the pain in his face as thoughts of his own son surely flooded his mind. He was brave to do this.  I was proud of him for saying what I could never say without bursting into tears.  You should watch the movie he recommends.  I am honored to see my veteran community of Infantrymen, Engineers, FAOs, paratroopers, rangers, and other SOF elements put this issue into the correct perspective.  We have lost too many friends to see this last sacred thing slip away in our nation.

This isn’t about thin-skinned presidents or cowboy hat wearing Floridians. This is about keeping something sacred in our nation. No president should politicize this process. No congressman should. The media should not. The pundits should not. The average American should not. Certainly, a bunch of political appointees who lost their jobs in January shouldn’t. The Gold Star families and veterans can do what they like—but I hope it honors their loved ones.

If you are talking about this and you have no frame of reference about why it’s so sacred to our active military, veterans, and the families of the fallen let me help you understand.

Sometimes 18-year old’s write their 1st last will and testament. It’s a sobering moment. As you finish figuring out who your meager possessions should go to, your buddy will pass you his will and say, “hey man can you sign as my witness.”  That’s when you realize your buddy is an orphan and his will leaves everything to his foster sister.

Sometimes a young person writes a letter telling their loved ones why they serve in the military and why they are willing to lay down their life for their buddies. They place that letter among their gear so that it will be found if they should die.  Or, they seal the letter and leave it at home when they deploy.  Sometimes, they give that letter to a buddy to hand to their family if they don’t make it home.

Sometimes young women medics try to stop their friends from bleeding out while they fish around in their body for a bullet.  They hold their buddy’s hands as the life slips from their body.  They pray with their comrades as they struggle not to cry.

Sometimes doctors do everything they can but cannot save a life and they must pronounce a kid, younger than their own son, as deceased.  They ensure the remains are carefully moved out of a combat zone as that American starts a long journey back to their family.

Sometimes pilots fly into an LZ under machine gun fire to pick up the wounded and the fallen so that those Americans can begin a long journey back to America.  Sometimes those pilots die.

Sometimes young men sit by friend out in the desolate Afghan countryside and hear their friends last words and promise to share them with the dying Soldier’s family.

Sometimes families and young men talk about what will happen if they don’t make it home alive.  Wives and husbands wish they didn’t have to talk about it and push off that conversation until right before the Marine deploys.

Sometimes young Americans walk through Arlington cemetery and cry as they read their friends names on the small stones that mark their graves.  Sometimes wives and children visit that grave on special holidays to talk to their fallen loved one.  Sometimes grandparents go to visit those graves because they raised that child into an adult when their parents died too young.

Sometimes a car pulls up in front of a home and a Sergeant First Class who is normally hard as a rock sits their steeling herself to ring a doorbell and give the worst news in the world to an unsuspecting family.  When they return to their car, they burst into tears and must sit there for an hour before they can drive.

Sometimes people find themselves holding the hand of a Gold Star wife and pledging to help them to ensure their 4 children have a good life.

Sometimes a seasoned General writes a letter to a father to tell them about their brave daughter and that general cries in a darkly lit office late at night.

Sometimes survivors of a battle unexpectedly run into the wife of a fallen friend and they have no idea what to say to them so they just hug them and tell them how much they loved their friend.

Sometimes a president tries to call a family member to assuage the loss of their hero.  If you have never made that call then you might want to refrain from criticizing.

The loss of a Soldier should never be politicized.

Only the family and friends of the fallen know what it’s like to handle this loss.

If you don’t understand how hard it is to live with the loss of such great men and women then please just listen and speak respectfully about this issue.  If you think it’s great for TV ratings or your re-election campaign to talk about this topic with anything less than reverence you need help.

If you continue to be callous and disrespectful to this solemn and sacred event, let me tell you that your “safe privilege” is showing.

Only a select few young Americans give up all expectation of safety to ensure our nation remains free.  Honor them with respect and never politicize that sacrifice.

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