Mr. Babin is a former Navy SEAL officer who deployed three times to Iraq.
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.