When my grandfather passed away at the age of eighty-seven, I had the distinct honor of attending his funeral. What made his funeral different from many other funerals in the United States was that it not only celebrated his life, but it also celebrated the sacrifice he made for his country in the field of combat. Many attendees of the funeral did not know that my grandfather was was a World War II US Coast Guard combat veteran of the Battle of the Atlantic and the Invasion of Normandy. That’s why some were surprised when members of the US Coast Guard Honor Guard were present to honor his service. When the Honor Guard presented my grandfather’s flag to the next of kin, my father, a second-generation Coast Guard veteran of 28 years, I sat humbled and in awe. This gave me a true living definition of what it meant to serve one’s country and to dedicate one’s life to a higher purpose.
Growing up with this living definition of honor and sacrifice, I was shocked when Rep. Fredrica Wilson, a congresswoman who represents the 24th District of Florida, announced that President Donald Trump had dishonored the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, a soldier who had died in an ambush in Niger. Rep. Wilson relayed to the American people that the President, in a phone call to Sgt. Johnson’s wife, had stated ,“he knew what he signed up for… but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” Rep. Wilson, who for some reason was present during the phone call between President Trump and Mrs. Johnson, believed that this statement was insensitive and that President Trump had intentionally insulted the wife of a fallen soldier. I was surprised by this account, because President Trump had previously always supported our Armed Forces.
Two days after the phone call to Sgt. Johnson’s wife, Gen. John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, released a statement in regards to Rep. Wilson’s account. He stated that earlier this month, President Trump came to him in private to ask about calling the families of those who died in combat. The President asked if previous Presidents had called families; Gen. Kelly told him that they had not. The President then resolved to do so and asked Gen. Kelly how to carry out these phone calls. Gen. Kelly told President Trump that “there was nothing you could do to lighten the burden on these families, and that the soldier “was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed; he knew what he was doing by joining that one percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war, and when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends.”
After listening to what Gen. Kelly told the President, it seems as if the President was only trying to echo Kelly’s sentiments to Sgt. Johnson’s wife and the families of those killed. While to some civilians this may seem cold, to those who wear the uniform, these statements take on a different meaning. Gen. Kelly is the ultimate authority for this advice because unlike anyone else in President Trump’s Cabinet, he is a retired Marine general, a combat veteran, and the father of a Marine killed in combat.
Once these statements by Gen. Kelly were released, Rep. Wilson and a slew of other media outlets began decrying his response. They were insistent that Gen. Kelly had furthered the dishonor of Sgt. Johnson and cried out for an apology from him and President Trump. Upon hearing these comments, I was disgusted. Rep. Wilson has taken the sanctity of the death of a soldier, who sacrificed his life for his country, and has turned it into a political pawn. This is detestable; these men have given their full devotion and their last full measure to ideals that transcend individuals. Rep. Wilson has decided to take the ultimate sacrifice of Sgt. Johnson to further her anti-Trump political agenda.
The question may be asked, why is it important to maintain the sanctity of honoring those who died for our country? The United States was founded upon the sacrifice of men and women who volunteered to fight for freedom. Although our nation was established on July 4th, 1776, it was forged in blood in places like Lexington and Concord, Gettysburg and Antietam, the Argonne Forest, Guadalcanal and Normandy, Khe Shan, Fallujah, and Kandahar. Their sacrifice is the embodiment of the principles that this nation was founded upon. These principles and values are what separates us from the tyrannical, old world order that existed before the American War for Independence. The denigration of our heroes’ sacrifice, past and present, is an attack on the very foundation of America’s principles and values. Attacking the one percent of America’s men and women who bear the burden of the fight for freedom erodes the very moral fiber of this nation. This erosion, if continued, will chart the course for our nation’s self-destruction. As a nation, we must be vigilant of those who seek to subvert America’s ideals for their own self-propagation.