Memorial Day, Lest We Forget

-flag-and-libertySource: Wall Street Journal | Leif Babin

In 2006, my SEAL Task Unit deployed to Ramadi, Iraq. Among the rubble-pile buildings, bomb craters and burned-out hulks of vehicles, we experienced firsthand the harsh realities of war. We fought alongside the U.S. Army’s Ready First Brigade of the First Armored Division to take Ramadi back from a brutal and determined insurgency.

Combat is hard. It is alarmingly violent, ear-shattering, dirty, exhausting and ugly. It is marked by chaos and confusion and self-doubt. But combat also highlights the determination and sacrifice—and courage—of those who persevere. Through such times, an unbreakable bond is formed with brothers-in-arms.

Those bonds were tested greatly as our task unit suffered the first SEAL casualties of the Iraq War: Marc Lee and Mike Monsoor. Later, Ryan Job died of wounds received in combat. These men were three of the most talented and capable SEALs I have known. They were also loyal friends. Their loss is deeply personal to their families and to their SEAL teammates. As Marc’s and Ryan’s platoon commander, I bear the crushing burden of responsibility. I will forever wish that I could somehow take their place.

As a result, Memorial Day is deeply personal—to me, as it is to any veteran, to any military family. It is a time of mixed emotion: solemn reflection and mourning, honor and admiration for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.

Let’s remember on Memorial Day—and every other day, for that matter—that America did not become a nation without a fight. Last week, I found myself in Washington, D.C., admiring a bronze statue of George Washington. The statue shows him as a general, astride a horse, sword drawn at the ready. This was Washington as a true American leader, inspiring those around him by showing that he too was willing to risk death for the cause of victory. The statue brought to mind the thousands of soldiers who marched with him into battle against the British, facing seemingly impossible odds.

It was not the Declaration of Independence that gave us freedom but the Continental Army. America was born from conflict, delivered by soldiers willing to pay with their blood the tremendous cost of freedom.

The dead did not wish to be martyred. They no doubt longed to return to their homes and families. But they believed in the “glorious cause,” something far greater than themselves. Despite knowing the dangers before them, they followed Gen. Washington into the fray even when victory seemed hopeless and the cause all but lost.

In America today, there are those who believe that under no circumstances is war the answer. Violence only begets more violence, we’re told. The unstated message: Nothing is worth fighting and dying for. History disagrees.

Knowing firsthand the hardships of combat gives me all the more reason to admire and stand in awe of those who marched with Washington and gave their lives for the United States of America. Most will never be depicted in bronze, but their sacrifices matter. The legions of American warriors since then who sacrificed their lives have not done so eagerly, nor have they done so blindly. They acted willingly because they believed in a great nation that is worth fighting and dying for.

Memorial Day is a living monument to them, a recognition of freedom’s cost. May we never take those sacrifices for granted.

Mr. Babin is a former Navy SEAL officer who deployed three times to Iraq. He is co-founder of Echelon Front LLC, a leadership and management consulting firm.


  1. Michael Kinsey says

    In total honesty, I do not see the US military anymore heroic, honorable, but perhaps just as courageous in combat than the Nazi Wermach.The military fought in Iraq and Afganistan because of a proven pack of lies,911 false falg attack, and non existant weapons of mass destruction. This is the honest truth and I feel as disgusted as I did when a HOOM priest guided us to be baptized by a defrocked, pedeophile Metropolotan fomr ROCOR, into apostate Orthodoxy. Deceit is rampant. and I obey the Christ who said, Take care that you be not decieved.I will not trust that HOOM priest again. I suggest you do likewise. I cannot cheer over a million dead Iraqis who had done me no harm.

    • George Michalopulos says

      I must disagree with you. Even though I may have problems with parts of our foreign policy, the brave men and women who serve our country are always to be commended.

      • Michael Kinsey says

        Not one jot or tittle of the Royal Law will pass away, I honestly do not the beleive the Royal Law will commend our troops for killing a million people in Iraq, who had no weapons of mass destruction and were invaded by foriegn invaders bent on conquering that country.Some fought back, I find this reasonable, it is thier country, we had no business invading them.I refused any honor or commending from during the Nam war and chose a Federal prison rather than be involved in the killing in Nam. I expect the Christ will say, Thou shalt not kill, and I obeyed Him. I did the Will of God not the soldiers who kill many.I do not commend this service to the world.I have no blood on my hands, which is criminal in this country.Judgement Day is inescapable. I was just obeying orders is not gonna fly on that day, what will fly is, I was just obeying the Royal Law will. There not a damned thing anyone can do or say that is going to change this.Bravery in the service ofthe demonic is obsene.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      I do not see the US military anymore heroic, honorable, but perhaps just as courageous in combat than the Nazi Wermach.

      It may seem like hair-splitting to you, but the Wermach was not Nazi. It was simply the army of the German nation.

      As such, the Wermach can be praised for its bravery and several other admirable qualities.

      One can say nothing good about the Nazis. The Nazi phenomenon was simply one of the most demonic enterprises in all of history.

      Your mention of the American military forces and the Nazis in the same sentence likely accounts for all the thumbs-down your message received.

  2. Anna Rowe says

    “Our country does not want war, it wants peace. It has not decreed this memorial season as an honor to war, with its terrible waste and attendant train of suffering and hardship which reaches onward into the years of peace. Yet war is not the worst of evils, and these days have been set apart to do honor to all those, now gone, who made the cause of America their supreme choice. Some fell with the word of Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty, or give me death,” almost ringing in their ears. Some heard that word across the intervening generations and were still obedient to its call. It is to the spirit of those men, exhibited in all our wars, to the spirit that places the devotion to freedom and truth above the devotion to life, that the nation pays its ever enduring mark of reverence and respect.” – President Calvin Coolidge, May 30, 1923 -The Destiny of America

  3. VideoMan says

    Happy (after) Memorial Day.
    This video may spark interest in to many of you on this website.

  4. Michael Kinsey says

    If it appears I kept myself unspotted from the world, as commanded, because I did I have no blood on my hands nor have I given consent..But , know this, everyone will recieve perfect divine justice.If you don’t like what you end up with, take it up with the Christ, as I am not your eternal judge.