I come from a family of fighting men.
My cousin Adolph was a paratrooper who landed in Normandy on D-Day, and the parachute he used – stained with blood and dirt – was turned into my cousin Helen’s wedding dress. My father spent two years in Thule Greenland, on a godforsaken outpost on the North Pole during the Cold War (no pun intended).
My uncle Louie was a Marine stationed in Beirut during one of the early crises in the 1950s, and my cousins Alex and Anthony served honorably in Vietnam. Last but not least, my brother Michael was stationed in Iraq as a civilian employee of the Ministry of Defense during the indictment against Saddam Hussein.
France. Greenland. Beirut. Vietnam. Iraq. Postcards from the front lines and part of my DNA. There is nothing more honorable than serving this country that has given so much and asked so little of the majority. But America has demanded this final full measure of the men and women, and especially the men who have served in combat positions, and we do not stop thinking about debt until tragedy strikes.
Thirteen US soldiers were killed by terror bombs in Kabul. You weren’t in an active fight. They did something that adds sharpness to their mission: to help civilians escape from the hellhole in Afghanistan created by the men in suits.
President Joe Biden is responsible, as has Donald Trump before him, and Barack Obama and George W. Bush, to the presidents and senators, who thought it was a great idea to arm terrorists so that we could get back to the Soviets.
But to dwell here is to ignore the kind of sacrifice these 10 Marines, two soldiers, and a Navy corpsman have made. They were in the process of evacuating desperate civilians, US allies and their families, women and newborn babies from a country that was in imminent chaos and threatened tyranny. They tried to save these people with the power of their US imprimatur, their courage, their intelligence, their ingenuity and, in part, their weapons.
Their mission wasn’t to conquer a hill or fortify a city. It should be the individual links of a human chain, person for person, life for life, breath for strained breath, which leads to the open door of infinite possibilities: freedom.
The fact that they were killed and murdered while trying to save lives makes their loss exponentially worse. The Bible says, “No one has a greater love than that a man should give his life for his friends.” Take it further: No greater love is a man has to give his life for strangers.
The image of a marine sitting down and cradling a newborn Afghan child went viral, and the reason is that it spoke to something deep within all of us that slumbered until tragedy: understanding that in the dark and terrible moments touching a person is the greatest weapon against despair and the strongest defense against disaster.
This image is emblematic of what the Marines and other warriors around the world have done in all collective war zones on this tortured planet. It’s not the shot of the soldier with dark glasses and in cammo with a gun around his shoulders.
It is not the tragic picture of a beaten and bloody fighter, alone on a hill.
It is the picture of this marine cradling the child.
From the marines on Iwo Jima who fly the flag.
Every moment someone shows up in uniform to represent what this country has always meant, despite the woke up naysayers who slander the past with its twisted and evolved retelling of facts and events that never happened.
Those who died this week are an unbearable loss to their families, a terrible sacrifice to a failed campaign, a tragic reminder of the fragility of life and the toxicity of radical ideology.
But especially when dealing with the refugees who long to escape the vortex in Afghanistan, the fallen represent for me the light that burns brightly in the hearts of generous Americans, the power of the human spirit against the nihilism of terrorists and opportunists ( often interchangeable) and hope.
May their memory be a blessing, an inspiration and a call to action.
And may her death be avenged by our refusal to pay tribute to the tyrants.
Christine Flowers is a lawyer and columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]