Without once referring to his son’s death, the general delivered a passionate and at times angry speech about the military’s sacrifices and its troops’ growing sense of isolation from society.
“Their struggle is your struggle,” he told the ballroom crowd of former Marines and local business people. “If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight – our country – these people are lying to themselves. . . . More important, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to this nation.”
Kelly is the most senior U.S. military officer to lose a son or daughter in Iraq or Afghanistan. He was giving voice to a growing concern among soldiers and Marines: The American public is largely unaware of the price its military pays to fight the United States’ distant conflicts. Less than 1 percent of the population serves in uniform at a time when the country is engaged in one of the longest periods of sustained combat in its history.
President Obama devoted only six sentences to the war in Afghanistan in his State of the Union address in January. The 25-second standing ovation that lawmakers lavished on the troops lasted almost as long as the president’s war remarks.
Kelly has largely shunned public attention since his speech and his son’s death. He discussed his speech and his son to provide insight into the lives and the burdens of military families.
And here is the section covering the moment Lt. Gen. Kelly found out his son had been killed that ends with a message from the Lt. General to the country:
Months later, Kelly would struggle to describe the pain he felt on his front porch. “It was disorienting, almost debilitating,” he wrote in an e-mail. “At the same time my mind went through in detail every memory and image I had of Robert from the delivery room to the voice mail he’d left a few days before he died. . . . It was as graphic as if I was watching a video. . . . It really did seem like hours but was little more than a second or so.”
Kelly composed himself and moved down his front steps to speak with Dunford’s wife and walk his friends into the house. His wife, Karen, was still asleep. “I then did the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life,” Kelly said. “I walked upstairs, woke Karen to the news and broke her heart.”
Four days later, Kelly stood in front of a microphone in St. Louis. He saw his speech there as a chance to remind people that the United States was still at war.
“We are in a life-and-death struggle, but not our whole country,” he told the crowd. “One percent of Americans are touched by this war. Then there is a much smaller club of families who have given all.”
The war in Afghanistan continues to find its way off of the average American’s daily schedule. This is especially true of late, as the Libyan ‘kinetic something, something’ and our nation’s budget battles have taken over. We must never forget the incredible sacrifices being made daily by our servicemen overseas.
A great way to show your thanks is through the charity group Spirit of Giving.