Dead silence befalls the room full of men and women dressed in their best attire. A formation moves across the front and begins to roll call until they come across the first absent party. After calling the name three times the formation leader announces that the Marine is no longer with us. Taps are now beginning to play slowly and somberly. If that isn’t sorrowful enough, this is to be repeated 12 more times across the country. For the first time in a decade, Lady Liberty has welcomed 13 of her bravest home to hold them tight to her bosom. The Lord has called these men and women home as heroes for giving their last full measure in defense of people they had never met before and for the men and women standing next to them. These servicemen did not fail their country. Neither did the men and women standing watch while those wishing harm against them threatened and gnashed their teeth. No, our brave men and women in arms did not fail; but the suits and brass failed them.
No less than twice in the last six months, I’ve been earnestly asked if I would support flying the flag upside down as a sign of the distress of this country. To answer that, I must reference title 4 US code chapter 1, the Flag Code. In section 8(a), it states, “the flag should never be flown union down except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” Such as the sinking of a ship with no radio to signal help. So are we, as a country, in extreme danger to life or property? Some would say yes, and I would find it hard to argue with them. However, the threat to the lives of those defending us is not quite the same as a danger to the life of the country as a whole. For perspective, we did not fly the flag union down after 9/11, and we lost civilians that day. No one, I believe, would argue that our country is distressed. However, I choose to describe our current situation as a country in crisis that is distressed. We are most definitely experiencing what Webster would describe, “an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending.”
Is that splitting hairs? Maybe, however, the symbolism of the upside-down flag has been used recently as a political prop, not a proper signal to others. We don’t need to signal to other nations that we are distressed. All they need to do is look at our present leadership. So when I answer that question, I can only come to one conclusion. I support the flag that represents this great nation and will fly it proudly. I do not support our country’s abhorrent leadership. The leadership has failed our boots on the ground who’ve operated under the credo that “no man gets left behind” for generations.
The ethos of the American warrior spirit can be summed up in a portion of the Ranger Creed, “Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of my enemy and, under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.” Today I feel embarrassed by my country’s leadership and betrayed by their willingness to leave Americans behind. To President Biden, VP Harris, Sec. State Blinken, SecDef Austin, and Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs Milley; “Leave No Man Behind” means something to the warfighters and the veterans of this great nation. You have failed our troops and surrendered the respect the rest of the world had for us with the way you’ve led our troops. Take accountability for your failures, or it is time to allow someone to lead who puts our troops and this country before your career.
Our troops deserve the kind of leader retired U.S. Army Lt. General Hal Moore was. He led from the front and believed the commander was the first on the battlefield and the last to leave. We haven’t had frontline battalion commanders in generations, but where have the leaders willing to get dirty next to their men gone? Where are the officers who put their duty before their careers? Leaders like U.S. Marine Lt. Colonel Scheller, who has since been relieved of command for releasing a video demanding accountability from the suits who have let the boots down. These American leaders wouldn’t have stabbed our allies and citizens in the back by handing a list of them over to the Taliban. These generals didn’t prioritize their careers over their subordinates and the civilians they’ve sworn to protect.
How inept do you have to be to hand a list of allies and Americans over to the Taliban when they were hunting Christians door to door and beating women with truck fan belts last week? This administration sacrifices these people and simultaneously wonders why so many Americans, specifically the veteran community, feel betrayed by our country. That betrayal has led to rage as the White House insists it was the Americans who stayed behind’s fault for not getting out in time. Never mind that our leaders knew the Taliban was taking the country over at a rapid pace, despite their claims refuting that. Our warriors did not and have not failed our country. Those leading our armed forces failed them and our nation. We will not easily forget the promises made and sacrifices paid since that infamous day in September, unfortunately the White House has. Now our troops and allies will pay the price of leaving haphazardly with both citizens and military equipment left behind. Where are our Jeffersons, Washingtons, Lincolns, and Reagans? Where are our leaders willing to put themselves in the breach for the country?
Those retired special forces and other veterans carrying out daring rescue missions, code-named Pineapple Express, of allies and Americans in Kabul have shown more testicular fortitude and loyalty to America and her promises than the brass have. Our veterans are acting more American than many in the administration today. Former troops are risking their lives for their fellow man in the face of overwhelming danger, just like our 13 lost brothers and sisters. Let us remember that it is darkest just before the dawn. Men braved a devastating cannonade during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry in 1814 because those patriots knew America was worth it. Our country was nearly torn apart permanently because of love for one’s nation in 1861 as the Union and the Confederates both thought they were doing what was best for their neighbors and their country. Soldiers and sailors answered the call in December 1941 and fought back against the Japanese at Pearl Harbor and then followed up with Doolittle’s daring raid to avenge their fellow servicemen and their country. Just like our country joined together on 9/12. That same patriotic American blood was running through the veins of those 13 warriors who gave their everything to the cause. We must not forget the more than 20 other Americans injured next to as many as 200 murdered Afghans. This country can never lose sight of the cost of freedom.
One percent of Americans join the military, and they are some of the best of us. Their spirit will hopefully permeate the American culture once again. When that patriotism becomes so infectious, we will see leaders rise with it. Remember how you felt on 9/11? That is how so many feel today. The anger, betrayal, grief, sadness and, a call to arms are just a few of the cascading emotions that led to bars and restaurants around the globe honoring the fallen 13. Soon it will be time for the healing of 9/12, and the re-invigoration of a nation can begin. America will not easily forget these 13 military members for their sacrifice for their fellow man. Let us pray and prepare the ground for genuine leadership to follow. From the current administration to the star-clad shoulders, we demand accountability and action. We sow the fields of leadership and honor our fallen by hoisting our flag high. We respect it and honor it by our reverence for what it stands for. That flag still stands for hope and freedom as long as patriots are willing to put their lives on the line for it, even if our country’s suits and brass wouldn’t. That is why we might be in crisis, but we are not in dire distress. Patriots will honor the fallen and fly our flag proudly. Will the leaders step up and do the same?