The Eternal Significance

A warrior is one who possesses high moral standards and holds to high principles. He is willing to live by them, stand for them, spend himself in them, and, if necessary, die for them.
— Tender Warrior, Stu Weber

Ernest Hemingway said, Write clear and hard about what hurts.

Today demands that sort of writing. On this day in this nation and around the world, we ordinary folk stop and pay homage to the men and women who have committed their lives in service to this great nation.

This commitment is a two way street. Yes, today we remember the commitment of our Armed Forces. But it’s not just their commitment; it’s ours, too. We have committed our freedom- the most precious of things- into their hands.

We trust these warriors to protect our way of life. And we have seen time and again that when these men and women pledge to stand surety for our freedom at the risk of their lives, they mean it. To the warrior, the sacrifice is clear. The realities are hard. They are fully engaged in the fight for freedom. They are fixed and certain in that engagement. They understand what they have pledged their lives to and are fully cognizant of why they believe it is important.

That truth is hard.

They ask nothing of me. Not even my gratitude.

That truth is hard.

It’s easy to forget. We relegate difficult tasks and thoughts to the back burner. That there are those who would oppose our way of life or seek to bring about the complete destruction of all we hold dear are truths we do not want to dwell on.

For our warriors, that is not an option. They cannot ignore the evils of the world because they are faced with them daily. The hardships they endure are unfathomable for the everyday citizen who enjoys the fruits of their labor.

To commit. To pledge. To engage. To serve. These are matters of the heart. This truth was never more clearly driven home for me then through the richness of Navy SEAL Adam Brown’s life. Eric Blehm’s biography Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown showcases the indelible resolve, humility, fortitude, courage, and selflessness that is ingrained into the fiber of our Armed Forces.

Even with the many impossible accomplishments he made in his military career- starting with actually getting into the Navy with a drug history and arrest record and compiling to include acceptance into the SEALs program, graduation from the rigorous BUD/S, loss of an eye and dexterity in his dominant hand which forced him to retrain himself to fire with the same accuracy and precision with his non-dominant side, and completion of the ultra-elite DEVGRU SEALs program which ranked him in the top 1% of the SEALs- Adam never considered his accolades, commendations, or awards as important. That’s not why he chose to serve his country. He served because of what and Who resided in his heart. Brother in arms and fellow SEAL, John W. Faas described it eloquently in his eulogy for Adam:

Ultimately this is more than just a fight between America and the Taliban or al Qaeda, just as World War II was more than just the Allies versus the Axis. This is a struggle between the forces that would protect and nourish human dignity and freedom, and those that would destroy it. Adam Brown was part of that struggle. It is a struggle that is of eternal significance, and Adam’s contribution to it is of eternal significance.

John Faas is now gone, having paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to this nation. He and ten other SEALs who had served with Adam- and who I had the honor of knowing through the interviews Eric Blehm conducted and recounted in Fearless- were shot down in the Kunar Province in August 2011, little more than a year after Adam’s death in theater. In his Afterward, Eric writes:

Equally devastating and shockingly sudden was the loss of life on August 6, 2011, including Adam’s friends and teammates, several of whom had sat with me for hours to ensure that his story would be rich in detail, to illustrate- so I might convey to the world- just how special he had been. While describing Adam, they had unknowingly defined themselves: fearless in their own right, selfless, and not only willing but proud to sacrifice their lives for the freedoms we enjoy every day.

I do not say this lightly. Since I read Fearless, something has changed in me. There’s a sensitivity now, an awareness of how each life, given in service, has resonating impact. Eternal significance. Through the words of his brothers in arms and his family, I witnessed Adam’s personal sacrifice, and how that sacrifice is not his alone, but his mother’s, his father’s, his wife’s, his children’s, his fellow SEALs’, his brothers in arms’. They all have sacrificed, willingly, for you. For me.

That truth is hard.

All too often we forget. But there are things in life which should never be forgotten. That is why around the world, today is known as Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day because we must never take lightly the commitment of our men and women in service. But we also remember the mothers, the fathers, the siblings, the wives, the husbands, the children- the families of our Armed Forces, whose sacrifice is very real and, in the case of the Brown family, of lasting impact.

In a letter Adam wrote to his two small children, Nathan and Savannah, during one of his first deployments, he said,

The truly courageous and powerful never have to prove it. It’s shown in their actions.

A life where deeds speak louder than words. That is the life of any single member of our Armed Forces, past, present, and future. We have all heard valiant talk, but when we see those who say not a word, but sacrifice their time, their health, their safety, and all too often, their lives, that is when we see what it is to be valiant. They don’t need to talk the talk, they walk the walk.

Thank you.