July 19, 2013
Spec-Ops Leaves No One Behind
You will know who you are and who I am, so I need name no names.
You are a member of a legendary U.S. military unit and, on your multiple deployments, have compiled a distinguished and decorated record of service, so I write to you not as your wife's doctor but as a fellow Spec-Ops veteran, and one with a military family.
As to my own military experience, I served as Battalion Surgeon in 3rd/Battalion/12th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and provided in-theatre combat medical support for numerous unofficial operations in Central America, Rwanda, Burma (Myanmar, 5x), Afghanistan (2x) and also with a Civil Affairs unit in Iraq. As to the military involvement of my family, my Ranger son served in the 82nd Airborne Division commanding a QRF out of Kandahar, Afghanistan; my Marine daughter served in Al Anbar, Iraq, and Helmand Province, Afghanistan and is now one of the few females ever selected Commanding Officer of 1st Marine Division Headquarters/Headquarters Company at Camp Pendleton, California.
If my credentials are enough for you to listen to me as someone who speaks your language, I will proceed.
Neither I nor your wife understands why you so abruptly decided to leave home last week with only a Post-it note in parting, but I do know you left behind a lovely pregnant woman who is completely distraught as she tries valiantly to hold herself together to take care of your two beautiful young children who are completely bewildered, with the third on the way who may never know his amazing father.
Though I have never had the honor of meeting you, any soldier with your record is a man of courage and honor and America is the stronger for such defenders. But whatever extravagant personal risks and great sacrifices we soldiers may make on the battlefield, it is when the guns fall silent and we lay down our arms that our real task begins, that of returning home to take care of those for whose love and protection we volunteered to the hell of war in the first place -- our families.
Because family is what war, and peace, are all about.
When we in Spec-Ops hear people in sports say, "My team is like my family," we smile indulgently because we know, "My team is my family." But a team without a leader is every bit a family without a father -- sure, each will march on, if only because they have no choice, but neither will ever be the same and will forever mourn the loss of the indispensable member.
Though I never served with your organization, I know the professional standards in elite-units are the same everywhere, where your first duty is not to yourself but to your team. It would never have entered your mind to abandon a wounded comrade to fend for himself on a rocky ridge in Afghanistan or a dusty wadi in Iraq because for Spec-Ops, leaving someone behind is the unpardonable sin. You know what I mean when I say there is only one way to come home with your honor but without your comrades.
The easy part of life for you and me is the waging of war but it is in the waging of peace that our Spec-Ops talents, remarkable skills and uncommon reservoirs of courage are put to the ultimate test, the test we cannot fail.
So, as one veteran to another, I beg you to come home to take care of your family and be the role model your children desperately need you to be, so that when you are gone and your sons hold the Silver Star you once wore alongside that legendary elite-unit insignia, their hearts will swell with pride and they will say "My Dad".
Nathalia Crane penned the poem I recite to myself when facing a new challenge:
You cannot choose your battlefield,
God does that for you;
But you can plant a standard
Where a standard never flew
Whether in war or peace, our standard is always -- Spec-Ops leaves no one behind.
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