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What To Be Thankful For

Posted by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on

Army photo

Sgt. La David Johnson, age 25

It’s one thing to tell a veteran, “thank you for your service.” It’s another to understand what that service really requires — and what being truly grateful would look like.

Navy photo

C-2 Greyhound

Just today, the Navy’s already beleaguered 7th Fleet announced one of their 30-year-old C-2 Greyhounds — an aging shore-to-carrier transport due for replacement — had gone down. Eight of those onboard have been recovered “in good condition.” Three have not. The search goes on. This latest accident in the Japan-based 7th Fleet, on top of two ship collisions that killed 17 sailors this summer, raises concerns about how overworked, under-trained, and ill-maintained much of the force has become. It also reminds us of a more eternal truth: Military service is hazardous, even in peacetime.

[UPDATE: On Saturday, the Navy identified the three servicemembers lost in the C-2 crash: Lt. Steven Combs, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Matthew Chialastri, and Aviation Ordnanceman Bryan Grosso].

Just yesterday, the Pentagon acknowledged investigators had found “additional human remains” from the site where Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s body was found in Niger. Johnson was one of four Special Forces soldiers (and four Nigerien troops) killed by Islamic extremists on October 4th. Their deaths revive longstanding concerns about how far-flung America’s military entanglements have become. They also remind us how many servicemembers fight and, sometimes die, on battlefields we have all but forgotten. Let us not forget them.

Let us be thankful for the lives and service of those who died. Let us be thankful for the survival of those who did not. Let us be thankful for those who get to come home and give thanks with their loved ones for another year.

And then, when we are done being thankful, let us get back to work figuring out better policies, strategies, tactics, and equipment to prevent more deaths in the future. As a Marine Corps helicopter pilot named Kris Faught once told me, talking about a fallen comrade:

“You know, putting a yellow sticker on the back of your car and ‘I support your troops’ – I could care less. What I want you to do is educate yourself and vote. And don’t cry the crocodile tears for Mike Martino who sucked up a MANPAD over Ramadi and is now a name on a wall. Spend those lives wisely. I’m an instrument of the executive branch of the United States and I execute foreign policy.”

What do you think?