I had to shut down my computer the other day after reading about all
the brave soldiers who've joined the ranks of the "forever young" in
Afghanistan. It's been a long 15 years.War is not for the fainthearted,
or the impatient. I am guilty on both counts, but I am not alone in my
feelings as I come to understand the cost of war extends far beyond
America's diminishing treasure.With scant media reports about the
positive impacts of our presence in Afghanistan and a Commander-in-Chief
who checked out before he took office, it's easy to mistake Afghanistan
as a total loss. A cursory glance projects a dysfunctional nation
infested with godless, faceless, soulless lunatics who will stop at
nothing to "kill all infidels."
And it is also easy to politicize a war. Those who encouraged us to
"cut and run" revealed their own cowardice and will forever bear the
guilt associated with the loss of untold innocent lives. But those who
invested their blood and treasure can take credit for the good. You gave
Afghanis hope, before Democrats took it away.
As reported in The American Interest, "the Democratic Party solidly
opposed the surge and supported the deadline. In September 2009, 62
percent of Democrats opposed Obama's impending surge decision, and 63
percent of Republicans supported it...The war in Afghanistan was never
as politically unpopular as the war in Iraq...until the President
started to telegraph his disbelief in the mission."
[This is the 15th anniversary of this edition of Mullings
which was first written for Memorial Day, 2001 - four months before
9/11. Our son, Reed, was then a young member of the team in charge of
President George W. Bush's visit to Arlington Memorial Cemetery on that
We went to Arlington National Cemetery to attend the annual Memorial Day observance.
The entrance to Arlington National Cemetery is directly across
the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial. These two historical,
mystical, sites are connected by the Memorial Bridge.
At the entrance to the Cemetery there is a sign which asks visitors to keep in mind the true nature of this place:
Welcome to Arlington National Cemetery
America's most sacred shrine.
These are hallowed grounds.
The Mullings Director of Standards & Practices and I made our
way up and down the curving walkways, past the small groups of
school-aged children and their chaperones listening to docents working
to inspire groups of students.
War stories can inspire the next generation of young Americans to
grow up with respect for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their
freedom. If these stories are not shared, they will die. Pull up a
chair to the bonfire, gather your family around—and tell a story that
will impact young hearts and minds forever.
Prayer and Kamikazes
I had one grandfather in the U.S. Navy and another in the U.S. Marine
Corps during World War II. Both were nearly killed in Kamikaze attacks.
Kamikazeswere Japanese fighter planes packed with explosives and flown
by suicide pilots.
My grandfather in the Navy was a gunner on the Fletcher class destroyer USS Franks (DD-554). Franks garnered nine battle stars during WWII. Fun fact: Franks
carried the very first Navy SEAL rescue diver, Mel Collins, who risked
his life to dive deep into the sea and battle high waves to retrieve
U.S. Navy pilots after their planes were shot down.
One day, a kamikaze plane emerged out of the sky and barreled straight toward Franks.
My grandfather said the entire crew on his ship began praying—thinking
prayer was their last hope. Sure enough, the kamikaze pilot missed the
ship and landed in the ocean. My grandfather recounted how the pilot
began waving his arms and screaming for help—even though he had just
tried to kill himself and every American onboard Franks. But the admiral told his men, “Shoot down that SOB.”