"There are the demons that follow me, and tempt me into thoughts and actions that are not my own...but that are necessary for survival. I’ve made compromises with my humanity. And I am not alone in this. Miles from me are my brethren in this world, who walk in the same streets...who feel the same things, whether they admit to it or not. And to think, I volunteered for this...”
These were the words of a young United States Army sergeant, Eddie Jeffers. They are part of a letter that he had sent home to his Father in 2007 while serving in the Iraqi battle theater; Ramadi, to be specific. It remains one of the most powerful pieces of writing – perhaps the most powerful piece of writing – that I have ever laid eyes on. It is pure, raw honesty put to paper.
Although I have become a friend to the Jeffers Family, I was never privileged enough to have met Sgt. Jeffers. Eddie was killed not long after he penned those words, a casualty of war; a war he understood; a war he believed in.
Sgt. Jeffers, Eddie, understood that the freedoms guaranteed to us in the US Constitution – our “unalienable rights” – don’t come from government or a piece of paper. In his understanding of the Charters of Freedom – The Declaration of Independence, The US Constitution and The Bill of Rights – he recognized the purposeful inclusion of this passage:
“...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...”
Sgt. Jeffers understood that in the phrase “all men are created equal,” and with the inclusion of the word “unalienable,” that the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” was something that was applicable to all people everywhere; that these unalienable rights are applicable to Iraqis and all peoples of the world just as they are applicable to Americans.
Young Sgt. Jeffers also understood that there was good and evil in the world. He understood that bad men – tyrants, barbarians, oppressors, dictators and despots – exist in the world; men who would think nothing of brutally torturing, maiming, raping and murdering those who would not acquiesce to their will; tormentors who would squelch innocent life simply to amass power and wealth.
Eddie Jeffers, a young man all of 23-years old at his death, understood that but for the dedication of the valiant to safeguard the freedoms and liberties, “endowed” to us by the Creator, that these tormentors would succeed in their quest. He understood that to safeguard and/or provide liberty and freedom for the most oppressed amongst us is to safeguard it for all the peoples of the world. In acting on this belief, in defending liberty and providing freedom, he made the ultimate sacrifice.
It is because of Sgt. Jeffers’ sacrifice that I hold in contempt those who ignore or minimize the efforts of our brave men and women who serve(ed) in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is because of the sacrifice that all our fallen soldiers – and their families – have made that I harbor a deep disdain for those who disrespect the members of the military or belittle their efforts, especially today in the age of an all volunteer military.
A recent and caustic email exchange with a New York Progressive included:
“But, it’s okay for that you kept your dainty mitts off the keypad while the Constitution was being trampled and kids were being sent to war over false pretenses...You don’t want, let alone demonstrate the ability to see anything other than your myopic world view. You’ve been hopelessly ‘Karl Roved’, there should be rehab program for that soon.”
As I shook my head at the ill-informed nature of his poorly written words – I have written extensively about the Iraq and Afghan conflicts – I couldn’t help but recognize the arrogance of his statement as a common malady of the Progressive Left. How is it that he felt the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” was exclusive to him simply through birthright? How was life in Iraq better for the Iraqi people under a despot like Saddam Hussein: a man who would have wives raped in front of their families because the husband wasn’t in line with Saddam’s despotism? How were the Iraqi people better off when they had to fear their government; when executions happened at the whim of tyrants; when girls were denied equal access to education, women held as a lower class? Through his “myopic world view” the Iraqi people were better off without their unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
And as I hold contempt for people like this, a better man than I in Sgt. Jeffers ignored the ignoble rantings of narcissistic Progressivism and introduced liberty and freedom, self-governance and opportunity – hope, to a nation of people, dying in his effort.
It is equally and perhaps more disturbing to come to know that our president – at a time when our nation is engaged in two battle theaters – has opted out of a White House breakfast with Gold Star Mothers and laying a wreath to the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery to, instead, vacation in his hometown of Chicago – for a single day – only to return to Washington, DC, for a rock concert the following evening.
At a time when President Obama, in his role as Commander in Chief, has commanded American men and women into harm’s way – and on the day we are to remember the many who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and what it stands for – is it anywhere close to being appropriate for the President to put himself and his desires ahead of those who have fallen on the field of battle, under our flag, and those they have left behind? Should someone who commands the world’s most potent fighting force enjoy the luxury of being so incredibly arrogant?
I have been to Arlington National Cemetery many times. It is a hallowed place; a place that demands respect for sacrifices made and actions taken in the name of liberty, freedom and opportunity; the American ideal. It is a place reserved for understanding that there are things bigger than self and that we all must be grateful for those who have given all so that we may enjoy the freedoms provided by their efforts and the losses incurred by their families.
This Memorial Day, as I do every Memorial Day, I will dedicate myself to honoring the fallen who have secured my right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”; who have afforded me the freedom to write this. I will do so as the President enjoys Air Force One. I will do so as Progressives from New York ignore the meaning of the day to take advantage of shopping bargains, family barbecues and to launch divisive political and ideological screeds. I will do so because I understand there are bigger things in the world than self and because it is the right thing to do.
I will do so because Sgt. Eddie Jeffers – and all the “other Eddie Jeffers” throughout American history – made it possible for me to do so.
Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for BasicsProject.org a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His organization, BasicsProject.org, partnered in producing the original national symposium series addressing the root causes of radical Islamist terrorism. He also serves as the managing editor for The New Media Journal.