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Memorial Day is an important reminder of American greatness and those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy.
Anyone who turns on the TV can see we live in a fractured society. People hate each other, there’s nonstop fighting, divisions between groups based on class and race run rampant and it really does seem like people have lost faith in this beautiful place we call home.
If you asked your average college student to explain why the red, white and blue are awesome colors to have flying, you’d likely walk away very disappointed.
Gone are the days where there was essentially universal pride in the USA. Memorial Day is a great reminder to go back to the basics and remind people just how many amazing heroes have come from this country.
Memorial Day is a day to honor heroes.
There have been far too many heroes killed in war to honor them all here, but there are a handful of men I think of every Memorial Day who I truly believe represent everything that’s great about this country.
Men who paid the ultimate price without hesitation to keep the homeland safe and protected.
On Memorial Day, I always think of Delta Force snipers Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart. Both earned the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993 – also known as Black Hawk Down.
The pair of tier one operators inserted to save pilot Mike Durant’s life after his helicopter was shot down. As the horde of possibly thousands of enemy fighters descended on Shughart and Gordon, they fought to the bitter and bloody end until ultimately running out of ammunition and being killed in combat.
They laid waste to the enemy in order to ultimately save Mike Durant’s life. Both are heroes every American should know the names of. They knew inserting to the crash site was a suicide mission. Yet, the Delta Force snipers did so without hesitation. Guts made of absolute steel.
Joshua Wheeler is a man to know on Memorial Day.
Joshua Wheeler, another member of Delta Force, laid down his life on a hostage rescue mission against ISIS in 2015 while supporting Kurdish fighters freeing people slated for execution at the hands of the terrorists.
When the Kurdish advance stalled and the team came under heavy fire, Wheeler stepped up to lead the way. It’s believed his final words were some variation of “Follow me.” He then stepped into the breach to hammer ISIS and died in a hail of gunfire.
I know several guys who served with Joshua Wheeler. One man describes him as “an incredibly tough motherf*cker” who was respected by even the hardest of American killers and combat vets.
Wheeler gave his life freeing hostages he didn’t know. An American killed saving complete strangers without a moment of hesitation. He could have done nothing and let the Kurds handle it. Instead, he stepped forward and led from the front. That decision resulted in roughly 70 hostages being freed, but it came at a high price. The price of Joshua Wheeler’s life.
That’s the kind of heroism beyond words.
John Chapman is another American hero.
Another name every American should know is John Chapman. Chapman was killed during the Battle of Takur Ghar during Operation Anaconda following 9/11 in 2002.
American forces hammered Afghanistan to obliterate Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Taliban and AQ fighters held onto Takur Ghar as one of their final strongholds.
Chapman, a CCT with the 24th STS, inserted in with a team of SEAL Team 6 operators to take the mountain. All hell broke loose almost immediately.
The American warriors came under heavy fire, and the SEALs abandoned Chapman on the mountaintop. He was seriously wounded and alone. Yet, he fought like a possessed animal and in doing so saved the lives of the SEALs as they returned.
Chapman’s story is the center of much controversy because some people don’t want to admit he was abandoned. He was. That’s a fact. You can disagree with it, but it’s true. Now, you can debate if the SEALs knew he was alive or not, but there is no disputing he was left alone.
Yet, against all odds, he continued to fight until he was ultimately killed. John Chapman earned the Medal of Honor for his unbelievable actions against the enemy.
Mike Murphy paid the ultimate price to call for help during Operation Red Wings.
Mike Murphy is another great example of American exceptionalism, and he deserves your attention and honor on Memorial Day.
Murphy was a member of the Navy SEALs, and he was killed along with 18 other American heroes during Operation Red Wings in 2005 in Afghanistan.
When Murphy’s four-man team was compromised, enemy fighters descended on their position and opened the gates of hell on them. Murphy willingly and knowingly exposed himself to enemy fighters to call for the QRF to come save them.
Murphy, two members of his team, and everyone on a helicopter that was sent for them were killed. Only Marcus Luttrell survived from the original four-man team.
Without Mike Murphy sacrificing his life to make that radio call, Marcus would have also 100% died. His heroic actions were covered in the hit movie “Lone Survivor.”
I think of my Uncle Connie on Memorial Day.
My grandmother’s uncle Connie Guilfoyle paid the ultimate price in the Korean War, but not before he unleashed death from the skies on the Nazis in WWII and later the communists in Korea.
Connie was shot down during a bombing run in 1952, and his remains were never recovered. Prior to serving in Korea, Connie was a highly-decorated airman in WWII slaughtering enemy forces on the ground.
He was in his 20s and earned multiple Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medals during WWII. Connie terrorized the enemy from the sky, and by the time WWII ended, he had the medals to prove it.
He later pursued his studies and attempted to focus on a life after war. However, God had other plans and was recalled to fly in Korea. He was shot down in 1952 with his fate ultimately unknown.
Connie did more in his life by the age of 30 than most humans could dream of doing in 1,000 lifetimes. When Europe needed to be liberated, he flew mission after mission after mission, absolutely obliterating targets on the ground.
I never knew Connie, but I think we would have got along real well. My grandmother still talks about him to this day. He’s a legend in my family, and his war medals are kept in a safe just feet away from where this is being written.
He paid the ultimate price to free a peninsula from the horrors of communism, and he did it after he went to Europe to crush and destroy the grip of the Nazis. He went down at the age of 30. A young American patriot whose entire adult life had been defined by death and war.
There are many more examples of heroism.
The great American heroes listed above are certainly not the only ones worth remembering and honoring. I could spend all day talking about WWII.
Young American men who should have been working on farms or in factories were instead carrying M1 Garands and Thompson submachine guns in Europe and the Pacific.
When the world cried out for help, young American men carried weapons and killed in countries that weren’t their own, didn’t speak their language and shared no connection with them.
Yet, they went and got the job done. On June 6, 1944, thousands of American men rushed into machine gun fire and artillery shells hammering the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Young men not even old enough to have a full understanding of the world were cut down in order to help free Europe from the grip of the Nazis.
The sand of the beaches was stained red with blood. The blood of American patriots who died before they even had the chance to live life.
American heroes paid the price during the Battle of the Bulge.
During the Battle of the Bulge, American paratroopers held the line in Bastogne against everything the Nazis could throw at them. They died, were seriously wounded, outnumbered, outgunned and getting shelled into oblivion.
When given the chance to stop the dying and surrender, General Anthony McAuliffe simply told the Germans “Nuts!”
That’s a battle cry that has carried on for generations ever since. The American paratroopers died to hold the line and break the back of the German army.
Imagine the kind of courage you need to see German tanks racing towards your foxhole, your best friend’s face is gone after getting hit and you still don’t back down.
Memorial Day should be a time of celebration.
Today is very sad for a lot of people, and it’s not hard to understand why. People associate Memorial Day with death, trauma and pain. I’ve seen firsthand, up close and personal what losing a family member in war can do to people.
It’s pain that stays with a person forever. It can’t be shaken or relieved. However, Memorial Day should also be a day of celebration.
These great heroes listed here and all the others who paid the price were amazing humans. They drank beer, had families they loved spending time with, were fun people, did crazy things and represented everything we love about America.
Yes, they died, but they died as heroes – not victims. We do a disservice to American warriors who paid the ultimate price by simply being sad. You know what they’d be doing if they were still here? They’d be cracking cold ones with their boys in honor of all those who didn’t make it back.
They’re not victims. They’re American heroes who had larger than life existences, killed many people in the name of freedom and will forever be remembered.
There’s a real simple way to honor all those who died.
The best way to honor all those who died is to live a life worth dying and killing for. Live a life that makes their sacrifice worth it.
Be grateful, be kind, be patriotic and be the kind of person our heroes can look down at from Heaven and know their sacrifice was worth it.
That’s the best way to honor their sacrifice. They died so we could live as free Americans. They died so that this country could be a better place than it was when they took their final breaths.
American heroes didn’t do so that we could hate each other, be divided and constantly allow ourselves to be fractured.
Every day you live is a day you have the opportunity to leave a positive impact on everyone. That’s the kind of life worth dying for. That’s what they died for, and they did it so you don’t have to.
In closing, I’m damn proud of every single person who paid the ultimate price, but I’m not consumed with sadness. Instead, I’m consumed with great pride that such amazing people ever existed in the first place. On this day, crack open a cold one, learn the stories of those who laid down their lives, say thank you and tell those you care about you love them and then live life. That’s what they died for and it’s what they’d want. God bless the USA, God bless our heroes and God bless the families they left behind.