No; it’s not National BBQ Day.
It seems to me that too many people have no idea what Memorial Day stands for or why it is important. It’s always been my hope that by sharing details of a specific event that we would all gain a greater appreciation of what Lincoln meant when he said that “they gave the last full measure of devotion”. To that end, here is a list of my previous Memorial Day entries.
This year’s entry is based on a great article from Business Insider about a speech given by then-Lt General John Kelly, four days after he lost his own son.
Nine years ago, two US Marines from very different walks of life met for the first time when they were put on guard duty at 7:30 in the morning…
Just minutes later, the pair of Marines guarding a gate in Ramadi, Iraq, were staring down a large blue truck packed with 2,000 pounds of explosives. They could have sought cover, like an Iraqi policeman on the scene who ran away and lived.
Instead, Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter and Cpl. Jonathan Yale stood their ground…
Because there were no US witnesses of the event, General Kelly went to Ramadi to interview the Iraqi policeman that did see the incident to increase the odds of posthumous medals being awarded. One of the Iraqi policemen told him:
“Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”
“No sane man.”
“They saved us all.”
Here is General Kelly’s summary of the incident based on his interviews and a review of security camera footage:
You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: ” … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”
The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.
The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.
Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.
Because of two brave Marines standing watch, 50 fellow Marines and 100 Iraqi policemen lived to fight another day. This incident reminded me of a line frequently attributed to George Orwell:
People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.