(Some thoughts for Memorial Day from CA-10 Candidate Anthony Woods… – promoted by Brian Leubitz)
The willingness to make the “ultimate sacrifice” in defense of our country stands as the enduring value which binds every active duty serviceman, servicewoman, and every veteran of the United States military.
Each Memorial Day we are reminded—and rightly so—of the courageous Americans who have given their lives in defense of our nation–between 1 million and 1.3 million since the American Revolution, depending on whose numbers you read.
Indeed the willingness to make that sacrifice is the pre-requisite-along with adherence to a strict code of conduct and respect for the chain of command—to joining an impenetrable fellowship as diverse as the nation every veteran has pledged their lives to defending.
As the son of a veteran, a West Point Graduate and Iraq War Veteran, Memorial Day will always be a day of gratitude, of solemn reflection, and remembrance for me.
Gratitude for the courage and untiring loyalty of the 81 soldiers I was proud to command during my two combat tours in Iraq. And a special appreciation for the fact that I was able to bring every one of them home alive.
Solemn reflection upon the near misses that are impossible to forget–like the roadside bomb attack 4 members of my unit narrowly survived during my first tour, the intensity of urban combat in Tal Afar, and the carnage of suicide bomb attacks on civilians in Baghdad.
And remembrance of the friends I came to know at West Point, during officer training, or on the sands of Iraq—those who made the “ultimate sacrifice,” the families they left behind, and those who may have left Iraq, but are still a long way from really “coming home.”
At parades and ceremonies across our country this weekend, we will read names, recite stories of battlefield heroism, and recommit ourselves to the cause of keeping our nation’s promise to honor and care for all veterans, past, present and future. And we must.
If we watch and listen closely this weekend, we’ll see that the capability to serve, and the willingness to make the “ultimate sacrifice” for America is not limited by era, branch, rank, age, gender, or the popularity of the mission they were called to serve. The reading of the names of the fallen will make no mention of race, ethnicity, marital status, the number of children left behind, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.
Because what matters in defending America has never been our differences, but the common cause, common values, common bonds and the shared sacrifices that unite all who serve.
That said, and in light of ongoing policy debates about who gets to serve in our military, it is important to remember, that among those who have given their lives for America, and among those who have stepped forward with a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice in defending America today, are large numbers of every conceivable demographic group…
…including members of the LGBT community.
For example, the Urban Institute estimates that of the 27.5 million living American Veterans, about 3%, or 1 million, are gay or lesbian.
If we apply this trend over history, that means that at least 35,000 of the 1-1.3 million Americans that have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country since the American Revolution were gay or lesbian. That’s more than the total number of Americans Killed in Action during Iraq, Afghanistan, Desert Storm, Pearl Harbor, the War of 1812 and the American Revolution COMBINED.
Military leaders have reported that approximately 65,000 members of the LGBT community are currently serving in the Armed Forces —substantially more than the total number of U.S. troops currently fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
And every day, at great cost, two more servicemen and women who have volunteered to give their lives if necessary in defense of our country are forcibly discharged for reasons with no relation whatsoever to their capacity to fight for the freedom of others.
I would know. I was one of them.
So as we honor our fallen heroes this weekend, and recommit ourselves to all who wear the proud uniform of our nation, I hope we can remember that for more than two centuries, protection of the land of the free has never been the responsibility of a narrow ideology, or a singular demographic—but by the willingness of brave Americans, from every walk of life, to step forward and if necessary, to make “the ultimate sacrifice.”
May God protect every single one of our troops.
Democrat for Congress, CA 10