Commentary by Sgt. Ben Hutto
3rd HBCT Public Affairs Office
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE KALSU, Iraq – As Soldiers, we’ve trained ourselves to ignore discomfort and keep working. If it is 100 degrees outside, we drink water and sweat though a mission. If it is freezing outside, we add more layers of clothing, put on gloves and grit our teeth when the wind kicks up around us. When we pull a muscle, most Soldiers I know hold off going to sick call to avoid getting a medical profile.
To put it simply, Soldiers find a way to keep moving forward.
What happens when the discomfort isn’t physical? What happens when there is pain that can’t be healed physically?
The battalions of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division held Memorial Day remembrance services at each of their bases Sept. 31 and there were quite a few looks of discomfort and pain at the one I attended.
I saw Soldiers struggling to keep tears from following. I saw senior leaders hold their fingers to their temples as they remembered fallen friends and leaders. I heard the catch in a speaker’s voice as he called out the names of one of his Soldiers he lost last deployment. As the 21 gun salute rang out and Taps was played, I saw more than a few heads bow a little lower.
Speaking for myself, a knot formed in my throat as I started picturing faces with the names I heard being called out.
The enormity of this understanding will always be hard for me to comprehend, but the importance of these Soldiers sacrifice does provide me with a reason to keep moving forward.
Our comrade’s death wasn’t given to provide us a reason to quit. It was given in service of something greater than ourselves.
We hear this all the time at memorial services, but when you think about the quality of our lives back in the United States it is something worth dying for.
Our families don’t worry about improvised explosive devices when they drive to work. A political debate doesn’t spark a car bombing at a busy strip mall. We don’t worry about security during our national elections. Our children go to functioning schools. We do not worry about days of having to go without electricity.
In short, we live in a country that, far and away, has more opportunities, security and a better quality of life than many of the countries we are attempting to help across the world.
People serve in the Army for a variety of reasons, but whatever their reason, what they accomplish in the Army makes the world a better place.
Our fallen Soldiers are perhaps the most powerful reminder of the sacrifices that are required to live in a peaceful world.
No one plans to die for freedom, but Soldiers set themselves on the front line knowing full well that it is a possibility. Memorial Day is meant to honor those us that met that unfortunate possibility so others wouldn’t have to.
We owe our fallen brothers and sisters many things for their sacrifice.
We owe them our thanks for serving, despite the danger; we owe them the honor of not forgetting what they gave up to keep our country safe; and we owe it to them to keep moving forward and finish accomplishing the mission they died for.
It is a lot to live up to, but Memorial Day reminds us that there are higher costs; not soon to be forgotten by me or any other Soldier.