As Christmas approaches, many people are thinking about the troops, who in turn are thinking about loved ones at home. Cards and letters are tacked up on many walls. The favorites are from the little kids, with questions like, "How do you go to the bathroom?" "Can you eat dinner?" "Does it hurt to get shooted?" It goes on.
I emailed to Command Sergeant Major Jeff Mellinger, asking if he had any words for the troops this Christmas. Jeff came right back with this awesome letter:
I awoke this Saturday morning at PT time (0430), and looked at my surroundings. The worst winter storm in DC for a number of years had arrived in force. Snow, and lots of it. Roads are closed, planes are grounded, and people are huddled comfortably inside their homes or foolishly out trying to learn how to drive in snow.
Rather than roll over, I put some warm clothes on, leashed the dogs, and out we went for some exercise and introspection. As I walked, I was trying to imagine being in those winter camps and fights so long ago.
I thought of Washington's Christmas raid at Trenton, and his last, lonely winter camp. I thought of the soldiers at Fort Niagara. I thought of the bitter cold of the Argonne, the Huertgen Forest and Bastogne, the Aleutians, the Chosin Reservoir, the Sava River, and Tora Bora.
As I thought of those heroes of our past, those legendary Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen that we regularly honor and pay tribute to, I thought of those quiet professionals in current fights that we don't speak of often enough.
Look around on any forward operating base or outpost in Afghanistan, the Philippines or Iraq. Watch the Soldiers passing through our airports coming home on or returning from R&R. Listen to speeches during a deployment or redployment ceremony. Stand silently and render honors to one of our fallen (something which is hardly more sincere than on Disney Road and at that airfield!).
Modern American heroes (not our over-indulged athletes or actors) are hardly given their due. They walked or still pass quietly among us, never seeking acknowledgement or fame, but simply doing their duty as they have sworn oaths to do. We already know some of their names:
- Smith, Murphy, Monsoor, Dunham, McGinnis - Medal of Honor;
- Hollenbaugh, Cooper, Nein, Sanford, Coffman - Distinguished Service Cross;
- Hester, Birch, Roundtree, Kandarian, LaFrenz - Silver Star;
- Kopp, Shumney, Kuban, DeLeon, Gentry - Bronze Star for Valor;
- Biggs, Carbone, Turecheck, Rushing, Berwald - Army Commendation for Valor.
And, I submit, for every warrior we acknowledge in a ceremony, there are a hundred or a thousand more who are never acknowledged for the difference they make every day.
So as I finished my peaceful walk in the snow, I thought of the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors that are carrying the fight away from home so that I could have this walk in peace, and I am forever grateful. I thought of those in MRAPs slowly searching roadways for hidden dangers, others working with local police to secure a village, and yet others moving quietly and quickly to eliminate or capture a hidden enemy, and I am filled with pride.
Wherever you are, and whatever you do or did to continue to guarantee my safety and freedom, I thank each of you in, headed to, returning from, or supporting the fight. You are my heroes, and I thank you.
CSM Jeff Mellinger