(In this post the term Marine can be used to describe any service member in our Armed Forces).
There is a myth about Memorial Day. This myth is known by all who have ever served. The myth is that those who sacrificed did so for their country. I think of friends that have lost life, limb, and eyesight in service to their country. Undoubtedly they all volunteered to serve their country. But not one of them died for their country….they died for their fellow Marine.
A few years ago I had the privilege of hearing General John Kelley tell the story of two Marines. Two Marines from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman. On this day they were in a city called Ramadi standing watch together with a group of Iraqi Police. Together they were protecting the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines and over 100 Iraqi police.
During their watch a large blue truck turned down the alley way and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically.
During the follow on investigation, six seconds of video tape footage emerged. The recording shows a number of Iraqi police, scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. The recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear in to the body of the one who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers. The two Marines never stepped back. They never started to step aside. They never shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.
Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their country, their flag, or the politics involved in their current deployment.
Six seconds. More than enough time for two very brave young men to think about their brothers…to do their duty.
Marines serve their country but they die for their brothers.
For even more stories detailing this kind of unselfish sacrificial bravery I recommend “They Were Heroes” by David Devany.