I was privileged and honored to attend today’s memorial service for the members of our Special Warfare Team who lost their lives in the helicopter crash in Afghanistan on 6 August 2011. The service was very well-attended with over 5,000 members of our Navy and greater Hampton Roads military community coming together to pay their respects to those who lost their lives and support the families they left behind.
As I think about the memorial service today and reflect on the sacrifice of our Sailors, I am reminded of a poem by Archibald MacLeish:
The young dead soldiers do not speak.It is for us, in what we do and how we live, to give meaning to their deaths, the deaths of those who are now forever young and forever silent. The deaths of those we remember today. We must hear their silence; a silence that echoes to us through the ages, from Valley Forge to Gettysburg, from Belleau Wood to Midway and Iwo Jima, from the Chosin Reservoir to Khe Sanh, and from Fallujah to Wardak province.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses; who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say: we were young. We have died. Remember us.
They say: we have done what we could but, until it is finished, it is not done.
They say: we have given our lives but, until it is finished, no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: our deaths are not ours: they are yours; they will mean what you make them.
They say: whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope, or for nothing, we cannot say; it is you who must say this.
We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.
And when we hear these echoes, the silence of so many who gave so much; it is for us, the living, to give life and meaning to the words President Lincoln gave us at Gettysburg; words written when he listened to the terrible silence of the Union dead of that most terrible of all our wars:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. No, time will not dim the glory of their deeds, but only time will tell if the lives we live prove us worthy of their deeds and of their deaths.
All the best, JCHjr