My heart is heavy — for a variety of reasons. I am a sensitive person (a shock to those who think they know me, I’m sure) and I am always overthinking and overanalyzing things.
Tonight, however, my small stresses — my tiny problems — they all paled in comparison to the lives of the men involved in Operation Red Wings.
I took my grandparents to see Lone Survivor a few weeks ago. Even now, I shudder when I think of the movie and the certain danger in which these men willingly put themselves. They knew they would be coming face to face with their own mortality, and yet they signed up to put themselves in harm’s way because they believed so firmly in what they were doing.
Michael Murphy was the man who willingly walked into a line of fire in order to get a clear cell signal so that he could call in and save his men. He knew it wasn’t safe. He knew he would die. And yet he still risked — and, ultimately, lost — his own life in order to save the men he considered brothers.
Shane Patton is another whose story I cannot shake. I still see the young man who wanted so badly to be part of a team — to be part of something bigger than himself, really — when I go to sleep at night. He was only 22. His life had just begun. And he still was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice — and he did just that, in order to save Michael Murphy, Marcus Luttrell, Danny Dietz, and Matthew Axelson. He gave up his life in order to try and save them. Though he was unable to complete the mission, I am still haunted in particular by his story of selflessness.
There were 19 men in total who risked their lives for their country. They made the ultimate sacrifice. And yet our country chooses to mourn the lives of celebrities who die from drug overdoses — something of which I am guilty, I’ll admit; though I’ve been making a concerted effort as of late to consider how insignificant these celebrity deaths are in light of the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform.
I love my country. I love that my country is protected by brave men and women like my cousin Gregory. He is who I often think of when my mind swarms with thoughts of the ultimate sacrifice paid by those 19 men in Afghanistan in 2005. He is only two years older than Shane Patton. His life has also only just begun.
There is really no other point I am trying to make here than this: I am deeply moved by the actions of our military after watching Lone Survivor and Murph: The Protector. Michael Murphy’s life was an inspiration — and I can only hope that the young men of today will see this movie and aspire to be like the warm, caring man who willingly put himself in harm’s way in order to save his men. I can only hope that they take a look at the life of someone such as Shane Patton and be inspired by his story as well — a young man whose life had just begun, and yet he was willing to sacrifice himself.
It is the soldier, who salutes the flag
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
I have a heavy, but thankful heart tonight, as I reflect on the movies I’ve seen — on the lives I have had the privilege of witnessing. I am so thankful for men like Michael Murphy and Shane Patton and Danny Dietz and Marcus Luttrell and Matthew Axelson and the other men who gave up their lives in Operation Red Wings. I am so inspired by their selflessness and regard for their fellow men.
And I am so proud of the men and women who put on the uniform everyday to do the exact same thing these men did. Your sacrifice — your selflessness — has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for looking out for me. Thank you for protecting me. You have made me proud to call America my home.