By Joe Ragonese
Memorial Day is a solemn holiday in memory of those who gave their last full measure of devotion for the betterment of our nation. It didn’t start off that way, it evolved into it. Its impetus was in the wake of our Civil War when a group of grieving southern mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, sons and daughters decided to decorate the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers.
Some of those southern belles, mothers themselves, decided to also decorate the forlorn graves of the northerners whose bodies were once the cherished sons, husbands and fathers of women north of the Mason-Dixon Line. After the war, these decoration ceremonies became a yearly right, then known as Decoration Day, an occasion that helped the families of the fallen cope with their loss. The day became so important that it was codified into Decoration Day in 1868, when Union General John A. Logan, President of the Grand Army of the Republic (forerunner of today’s American Legion) made a proclamation declaring May 30th as an official day to decorate grave sites of fallen soldiers.
In both the north and south the Civil War’s dead were honored on that day. It was the first act to bind north and south together once again. The simple act of remembering those men of honor began the healing process so necessary to repair this nation; in stark contrast to today’s American Communist Party and Antifa hoods who are tearing down any memory of honorable men who fought for a cause that they believed in.
As the healing process continued, America found itself in more wars, from the Spanish-American War, to World War I, then II, to Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War and our present war on terror in places as widespread as Afghanistan , Iraq, Somalia, Niger, Libya, and elsewhere. In each place the body count mounted, leaving behind more Americans who gave all for their country. To honor all of them Memorial Day was named a federal holiday and ratified in 1968 when congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act, and designating it the last Monday in May, rather than the traditional May 30.
But mere facts do not begin to explain the importance of this day. Allow me to try to explain by an extreme example of honor to our fallen that has created a rift within our Special Operations Command. Today, May 24, 2018, President Trump presented Navy SEAL, Senior Chief Britt Slabinski the Medal of Honor, authorized by congress, for his actions during the Battle of Roberts Ridge on top of Takur Ghar, a mountain top in Afghanistan’s Shah-I-Kot Valley when trying to establish an observation post during Operation Anaconda in March 2002, only six months after the attack on America of 9-11-01.
His Medal of Honor is mired in controversy because of one of those who died trying to rescue a fellow Navy SEAL, Chief Neil Roberts, who was thrown out of a helicopter at the very beginning of the battle; and whose name Roberts Ridge is given, was left behind.
Two members of the USAF, combat controller, Tech. Sgt. John Chapman and Para-Rescueman, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham lost their lives during the two day battle, as well as a member of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, door gunner, Sgt. Bradley Crose, and three members of the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, Spc. Marc Anderson, Cpl. Matthew Commons, and Tech. Sgt. Phillip Svitak; as well as Navy SEAL Roberts. At his Medal of Honor ceremony Slabinski remembered those who died in that battle; however, it was not enough for some.
Honoring our dead warriors is a tradition that predates our battle for independence, as statues have been erected to honor soldiers and sailors who fought for our British Colonial regiments during the French-Indian War. Americans have always honored those who gave their full measure of devotion for others.
This tradition of honoring our fallen has a special meaning to our most elite forces, Special Operations Command, a tightly knit group of America’s best warriors whose rules of conduct are above most other commands, and as such they will go to all lengths to rescue a fallen comrade, which is what earned Slabinski his Medal of Honor, trying to rescue Roberts.
Green Berets of the Elite Delta Forces, as well as members of the 75th Ranger Regiment, in particular, have objected to Slabinski’s receiving our nation’s highest award for valor, because the Senior Chief, the commander on that mission, left Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chapman behind to fend off the overwhelming Taliban and Al-Queda forces on his own. To other members of Special Operations Command, leaving a fellow operator behind is akin to cowardice, and not deserving of America’s highest award for valor.
The circumstances of Chapman’s being left behind were not learned until ten years after the incident, and only after new technology allowed better viewing of overhead drone and AC-130 footage of the event. Only then was it learned that Chapman was still alive when the SEALs withdrew. The withdrawal was a command decision made by Slabinski in the heat of battle, and during the fog of war.
Unless you have been in combat, you cannot understand what the fog of war means. An old adage best describes the meaning, ‘after the first bullet is fired, all planning fails.’ While Delta Force and Rangers know exactly how that fog can distort everything during battle, they still believe that someone who made the wrong call during it is not deserving of the Medal of Honor.
It was during that fog of war that Slabinski mistakenly thought Chapman was already dead due to a head wound, rather than simply knocked unconscious. He awoke shortly after the SEALs pulled back and fought off repeated attacks by Taliban and Al-Queda fighters until he was shot multiple times in the chest and succumbed to those fatal wounds, as SEALs, Rangers, and para-rescuemen charged in an uphill battle , through thigh high snow, to rescue Roberts, whom they didn’t know was already dead. It is for this reason that some special operators believe Slabinski does not deserve his MOH.
Respect for our fallen warriors is sacrosanct to the military, as well as all real Americans, not only Special Operations Command, and reflects what is best about this country. Honoring our dead is how we remember who we are as a nation, where we came from and how we will achieve future greatness. It is the reason that the radical leftist MSM and Democrats want to tear down statues honoring our past.
It is the ordinary Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine whose sacrifice is honored on Memorial Day, not super warriors or extraordinary heroes, simply the guy next door who faced his fears and did the right thing in spite of his trepidation. Today; however, that sacrifice is little mentioned in the mainstream media, because they do not want Americans proud of our heritage. Listen to newscast or read MSM newspapers and magazines and all you will read about is the heroism of some anti-American left wing nut job who did something that benefited only themselves and not the nation as a whole.
To today’s MSM, American exceptionalism never existed, so how can we honor warriors whose deaths were for the betterment of others? Listen to the MSM carefully and they will not mention anything about the sacrifices made or the heroism and bravery of those who gave all to benefit their fellow Americans, yet Memorial Day isn’t about hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, it is all about the sacrifices made by ordinary Americans in causes more important then themselves.
And that is what Memorial Day is all about, the sacrifices made by others so that we may live as free men and women in this the greatest nation on earth. President Trump said it quite eloquently at the ceremony presenting Slabinski with the Medal of Honor, “We are free because warriors like you are willing to give their sweat, their blood, and if they have to, their lives, for our great nation.” And that tells why Memorial Day is so important, because if we forget our past, we will not have a future.