As the mother of a fallen Navy SEAL killed in action on Aug. 6, 2011, I spend a lot of time talking to men and women who have served this nation since the towers fell on that fateful morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Young adults who launched themselves into action with reckless abandon, believing in their hearts that their sacrifice—their commitment to the cause—would make an impact on American security.
As I stare into their beleaguered, weary faces and listen to stories of betrayal after betrayal, the same sentiment seems to linger at the close of each conversation, “We have no faith left in American leaders.” Through tense jaw they say, “There is no plan. There has been no leadership for years.” Or, “I took Tikrit once. Why should I do it again when no one plans to hold it?”
Those words are a stench to my soul because I know they are true.
U.S. Marine James Blake Miller, dubbed the “Marlboro Marine” by the media, smoking a cigarette while serving in Iraq during the Battle of Fallujah.
What was gained has been lost. What was lost, decimated. Our war fighters’ courage and conviction to “get the bad guys” was no match for politics and power.
No plan. No path to victory. Just disappointment upon disappointment until our brave war fighters finally concluded that America just doesn’t care.
And now Gold Star families across this nation are forced to conclude—and somehow accept—that our sons and daughters are gone and nothing was gained in exchange for their sacrifice. They gave their everything—all of their tomorrows. And their leaders turned their proverbial backs.
As of 2013, less than one half of 1 percent of Americans served this nation in the military. Fine tune that number to the actual men and women who did the “heavy lifting” of time in combat, and the percentage is even more staggering. For each man or woman engaged in battle, approximately six remained well behind the front lines, executing their service in strategic support roles.
So few now carry the weight of so many.
Over 50,000 came home wounded, forever changed. Untold numbers of households bear the scars of grief and tragedy and now must ask themselves—as do I—“What was it all for?”
These heroes fought night after night in gruesome battles under restrictive, deadly Rules of Engagement, against enemies who wore no uniform and fought by no rules.
US Marines of the 1st Division line up for a joined prayer at their base outside Fallujah, Iraq, Nov. 6 , 2004. Four years into the Iraq war, President Bush is staring down a Congress in revolt. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
America’s veterans have been put through hell. We need to rally for them, encircle them with the same level of integrity they gave us when they signed their name on that dotted line. They must know that America loves, appreciates, and honors them.
That’s why I’m traveling with Concerned Veterans for America to 23 cities around the nation for the 2015 Defend Freedom Tour. If you love this nation and you love those who’ve served, please find a location near you and join the movement. You can learn more at www.defendfreedomtour.com.
Those of us who’ve given our very best in the name of freedom are begging you to fight—to defend what our sons and daughters gave themselves for. What has passed is the past. But the future is ours to challenge. We must hold up the arms of those too weak to stand on our behalf any longer. We must engage. We must re-form ourselves into a nation worthy of such sacrifice.
Billy has authored the book “Betrayed: The Shocking True Story of Extortion 17” and Karen serves as Senior Military Families Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America. They are the founders ForOurSon, which is dedicated to preserving our Republic.
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