When asked to speak here today, I was humbled and honored. I didn't hesitate and immediately said 'yes.'
After awhile of thinking, I became quite nervous and felt anxiety over how I was to address this day. In all respects I feel I do not have any ability in eulogy or a position of merit to speak on behalf of all our nation's fallen heroes. Their service and sacrifice is so great, that no words can add or detract any amount of value. Nor can we consecrate and further hollow this day anymore because those who have died did this absolutely.
To put it plainly: we live, and are free because of them. Over a million have died for our nation. There is no numerical figure for gratitude and thanks that these men and women deserve. We are in their debt to live honestly and to appreciate what we have in these United States.
We hear that number million, but we can easily forget that each one was or is a father, mother, sister, brother, family member, friend, or co-worker. They even may be someone who hasn't even lived in your lifetime, but they still sacrificed for us and our way of life.
In 2006, I served in Iraq with Able Co 2-136 Combined Arms Battalion, in the 34 infantry division. On July 25, around 4 p.m., my life changed forever. I was injured severely by a secondary I.E.D. after my vehicle was disabled from an initial blast. In all respects I should be dead.
I stepped on two 120mm motor rounds that exploded simultaneously. The explosion took my right leg above the knee. I was conscious through the entire ordeal and the feeling of absolute dread will never leave me. I remember sitting up the best I could, looking down at my body, and seeing my life flow out from me. There are soldiers present in here today who were with me, and I cannot thank them enough for saving my life.
One soldier who isn't with us today is Josh Hanson. Josh was a soldier who was down to earth, courageous and funny as hell. Josh helped carry me to the safety of a Humvee after the blast. I distinctly remember asking Josh if I was going to live and be ok. Without hesitating, he said I would be fine. These words, though simple, gave me hope. I believed Josh. I don't think I can describe how much those words meant to me.
About a month later, while I was still in the hospital, I learned that SSgt. Josh Hanson was killed in combat. Josh will be forever present in my life. I cannot forget him. Josh is not a number. He is a man, among others our nation needs to recognize.
The connection we have with the fallen is everywhere around us.
We are a nation.
We are undivided.
We have liberty and are free from terror because of the men who have fought and died through our country's history.
The most important thing we can do for our fallen is simple: remember. By remembering they live within our hearts. Memory is more than just facts out of a history book. History is forgotten, is reinterpreted and rewritten. Memory though is much more; it is a human sense that moves the individual personally. It affects our beliefs, ethos and moral compass. By properly remembering the fallen, we keep our admiration close to our hearts. Our resolve is hardened to protect this country, like so many already have.
In time names will fade, but actions will not. It is our duty to never let these honorable dead be forsaken or misconstrued. What these Americans have given up is far beyond any comprehension. Positions of hindsight on the soldiers and their missions fall on deaf ears.
I do not accept Monday Morning Quarterbacks.
Every one of these men did his duty to its fullest extent. They gave their lives for their friends and comrades. No earthly being could give more than what they have given us.
War will always be fought by the willing and able. Although I'm still willing, I am only able to proudly stand here today and say, "thank you" to all those who have served and died for our great nation.
We will never forget.
We will always remember.
And we shall be forever grateful.