We celebrate Veterans Day every year, in tribute to Veterans past and present. It’s a chance to salute those who, in Mr. Lincoln’s timeless words, are willing to give, “The last full measure of devotion.” To be clear; it’s devotion to you, to this country and to our way of life. If one takes a minute to think about that the disdain shown by anyone “taking a knee” becomes problematic.
In 2010, then Lt. General John Kelly gave a speech at the Semper Fi society in St. Louis. He did so a few days after his own Marine son was killed in Afghanistan. Kelly currently serves as Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump. In his speech, Kelly described the circumstances of a 2008 suicide bombing in Iraq that claimed the lives of Marine Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter. Kelly put both Marines in for a Navy Cross. As recounted in the WSJ, this is the story:
A suicide bomber drove a truck toward the Marine barracks in Baghdad. The video from a security camera allowed analysis after the fact to realize it took just six seconds from the time the truck started its run at the gate until it detonated. The two Marines, who were 22 and 20 years old, only had a few seconds to react, and how they did so was in the best traditions of the United States Marine Corp.
What the video showed was the two young Marines both reacted independently in exactly the same manner. Their orders were to “let no unauthorized vehicle pass,” and in fulfillment of those orders they both shouldered their weapons and opened fire as the truck gained speed crashing through the outer barriers. Reacting and opening fire took the Marines about three seconds. They had another three seconds to live.
The video showed Iraqi police running past our Marine’s who were firing their weapons non-stop at the lunatic behind the wheel. We remember the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983 where 241 Marines were killed by a truck bomb. The only thing that was protecting the people in the barracks in Iraq from a similar fate were their fellow Marines doing what they had to do as their training took over. Haerter and Yale did not hesitate, they sized up the situation and took appropriate action. The video gave testimony to the fact that they never stepped aside, they stood their ground as they were trained to do, leaning into the recoil… and the danger. The truck came to a halt a few feet in front of the Marines; they had one second more to live at that point. The truck exploded and the video camera went dark… but not until it recorded an impressive film that is hard to forget.
It only took six seconds. Not enough time to think about anything, just enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty as part of the USMC. Those are the kind of people who stand watch all over the world, so you can go on with your life. On this Veterans Day, and every day, take a moment to thank Haerter and Yale and thousands of others who signed up to protect you.
The story Gen. Kelly told has enough Patriotism to leave you with a lasting impression. If you have a shred of decency you look on Veterans in a way that demonstrates your appreciation for their service and sacrifice. It is tragic and sad that some professional athletes and even some elected officials lately have no such decency; rather, they prefer to show their disdain for our brave warriors. Taking a knee is sacrilege to Veterans. It is an act only a self-absorbed soulless person would engage in for their own selfish reasons.
It is offensive to me that any person would attempt to impugn the honor and reputation of Gen. John Kelly and the USMC. From the “Halls of Montezuma” to the rooms of Congress and the White House, the United States Marines stand watch…sleep well America.
Those who take a knee do so under the safety provided by the Veterans of this country. The right to express yourself even in that despicable way is articulated in our Constitution. That’s part of our way of life that has served us well for more than 241 years, and God willing will do so for another few millennium.
One can’t possibly explain all that in 6 seconds…but you can say “thank you.” Veterans Day gives you the opportunity to do that.
David W. Thompson worked in government, education and the non-profit sector for more than forty years. A graduate of Westminster College and Harvard University, he resides in Easley, SC. You can follow him on his blog, Smokealarms2015.com.