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An Unspeakable Loss

Last Saturday, our nation suffered an almost unimaginable tragedy. Thirty of our brave soldiers died when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in the mountains of Afghanistan. Twenty-two of those men were US Navy SEALs.

            It might seem strange to hear of the US Navy operating in mountainous valleys, hundred of miles away from the nearest major body of water, but there’s no place on earth where the SEALs cannot operate. It’s in their name—SEAL: Sea, Air, Land.

            It was SEALs who brought justice to the man behind the September 11th , and as long as the American flag flies over this land of ours, it will be the SEALs who take the fight to our enemies.

            Nothing seemed real about Saturday—nothing could erase the hollow feeling that struck me upon hearing the news. I came to know the special operations community through the research for Pandora’s Grave, and I can name no men on earth whom I respect more. That so many could die. . .

            Make no mistake: these men were doing what they’d been born to do. You don’t become a SEAL by accident—and you don’t push yourself through Hell Week for the money. 

            Out of the hundred-plus recruits who enter BUD/S training, an average of between twenty and thirty actually finish. The men who make it through to the Teams have demonstrated an almost superhuman physical and emotional resilience. They are without equal—a true elite of the elite.

            Twenty-two dead, almost an entire BUD/S class—men who died in an effort to rescue a detachment of Army Rangers, their comrades. Their brothers.

            Men who died in a war that the politicians had already declared to be over. Apparently, the politicians forgot to inform the Taliban. Isn’t that always the way.

            I heard a common theme among my conversations over the weekend. Our grief wouldn’t have been nearly so deep had the CH-47 been ferrying politicians. It would still have been a national tragedy, but, right or wrong, we perceive politicians as being in business for the power. For the money. And recent events have only served to prove the theory that just about anyone in Washington can be bought.

            There’s no way you can buy the SEALs. There’s no way to buy men who will put themselves through hell for  little more than the yearly salary of a high school teacher. No way to buy men who will fight for a flag when they’ve had every opportunity to fight for money.

            Above reproach. Do we even understand what that means in this cynical age?

            Their bodies were returned to U.S. soil on Tuesday, to the land for which they gave their lives. It is now our responsibility to be there for their families, to share in their grief and strengthen them in the days ahead.

            Don’t let their sacrifice be in vain.

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