Pausing today to remember the sacrifices of our fallen warriors, it has been difficult to watch the gains of ISIS in Iraq’s Anbar Province and the subsequent fall of Ramadi where America’s first Navy SEAL, Marc Lee, was killed in a ferocious firefight.
Gold Star mother Debbie Lee, Marc’s mom, traveled to Ramadi in 2007 and returned home with some of its powdery soil in a plastic bag where her son’s blood was shed. She sat watching her TV as the black flag of ISIS flew above the city. Her outrage and grief can never be fully imagined.
So deep was her anguish she wrote a letter to Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey following his controversial comment about the fall of that city. Dempsey said, “The city itself is not symbolic in any way. It’s not been declared part of the caliphate on one hand or central to the future of Iraq.”
In her letter Lee wrote, “I’ve traveled to Ramadi and visited Camp Marc Lee in 2007. I brought back soil from that city where Marc breathed his last. I interviewed Iraqi General Anwer in 2010 when I returned. I asked him if you could say one thing to the American people what would you tell them. He paused and with deep emotion said, ‘We will tell our children and our grandchildren for generations to come what Americans have done. There is American blood poured out on our soil.’” Lee added, “It seems the Iraqis understand the importance more than you do sir.”
Dempsey sent a short letter of apology stating he did not mean to add to her grief writing, “Marc and so many others died fighting to provide a better future for Iraq. He and those with whom he served did all that their nation asked. They won their fight and nothing will ever diminish their accomplishments nor the honor in which we hold their service.”
Dempsey has gained a reputation for being more interested in his post-military career and future benefits than the well-being of our troops. He has become, as Sen. John McCain stated, “the most disappointing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs that I have seen, and I have seen many of them…he has basically been the echo chamber for the president.”
On D-Day seventy years ago, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said in his address to the troops who would storm the beaches of Normandy, “You are about to embark upon the great crusade toward which we have striven these months. The eyes of the world are upon you…I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.” These inspiring words are inscribed on a wall at the World War II Memorial.
There are other inscriptions at the memorial referring to America’s “righteous might” and the “destruction of the enemy.” At the northern end there is a monument that bears the words of Gen. George Marshall: “Our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”
There is no monument in Washington and there may never be one to the American soldiers who have fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to the Commemorative Works Act of 1986. The act prohibits new war memorials until at least ten years after the officially designated end of a conflict. If military operations against the evil forces of terrorism mean a permanent state of war, there may never be any memorials in our nation’s capital.
The World’s Most Dangerous Community Organizer’s fixation on his legacy will prove most discomforting if his words were to be carved in stone. After the Islamic State won major battles in Iraq and Syria last week he said, “I don’t think we’re losing.”
At Arlington National Cemetery, alabaster headstones are a sobering reminder that even in death our soldiers stand as sentinels of unquestionable courage and sacrifice and we must honor those virtues.