There is a saying in the Marine Corps, and I suspect the other Services as well – All gave some, some gave all.
I’ve always thought that that this is meant to be a poignant reminder to those that have served and came home. Over the last several years I think that it is an important reminder to all, military and civilian, especially at Memorial Day.
In the last 10 years or so, Memorial Day has seemed to become a second Veteran’s Day. I say that based on news articles and discussions, but especially in the things I see on social media. I know that all of the “thank you for your service” at Memorial Day is well meaning and heartfelt. But I think it is very important for those of us that have served that we be diligent in reminding our fellow citizens of the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.
Perhaps the best way to do this is to point out the stories and the sacrifices that remind us of those that gave all. For me, there is one particular story that stands out. It’s about Marine General John Kelly, his son Robert, and two young Marines, Corporal (Cpl) Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal (LCpl) Jordan Haerter.
General Kelly is currently serving as the commander of United States Southern Command. His son Robert was an infantry platoon leader in Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment when he was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010. Four days after General Kelly lost his son he gave a previously scheduled speech in Saint Louis. But he didn’t talk about his son or his sacrifice.
Instead he talked about Cpl Yale and LCpl Haerter. They were on guard duty at a road side checkpoint in Ramadi, Iraq. A full account of their heroism and sacrifice, a very powerful description of valor, was the subject of General Kelly’s speech and is provided here. The story is about the last six seconds of their lives. It’s a real story about how when everyone else was running away these two young Americans not only stood steadfast, they courageously leaned into the threat and gave their lives to save their fellow Marines.
I think of this story often but especially at Memorial Day. It’s a story of a father that lost a son in battle, and how even in light of that sacrifice he chose to speak of a 21 year old from Burkeville Virginia and a 19 year old from Long Island New York that gave the last full measure of devotion.
Jonathan and Jordan, and Robert, willingly chose that life and accepted the challenge. When the challenge occurred, they did not flinch. They are the best of us. They are what Memorial Day is about.