Memorial Day, SEALS, and Motivations

Memorial Day, SEALS, and Motivations May 23, 2013


“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Winston Churchill made that comment on August 20, 1940 about the Royal Air Force, yet it perfectly applies to all the men and women who fought and died to protect America.

Our country first celebrated Memorial Day on May 30, 1868. It was initially designed to honor Union soldiers who died in the Civil War – southern states started observing the day after WWI, when the holiday was expanded to honor all soldiers from all US wars. It was declared a city holiday in Waterloo, New York in 1966, and was officially recognized as a national holiday in 1971.  The purpose of the Memorial Day is to remember all the men and women who gave their lives to protect our country.

Occasionally, some will find it fashionable to criticize those who serve our country – “What are their motives? Are they in it for the money…machismo…or, is it a lust for blood?” I thought I’d pass along a few paragraphs from a Wall Street Journal article about the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden. (The entire article is worth reading!) Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, writes about what motivates many SEALS to fight through and survive Hell Week…and it’s not bravado. Greitens writes:

The rigors that SEALs go through begin on the day they walk into Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in Coronado, Calif., universally recognized as the hardest military training in the world. BUD/S lasts a grueling six months. The classes include large contingents of high-school and college track and football stars, national-champion swimmers, and top-ranked wrestlers and boxers, but only 10-20 percent of the men who begin BUD/S usually manage to finish ….

What kind of man makes it through Hell Week? That’s hard to say. But I do know—generally—who won’t make it. There are a dozen types that fail: the weight-lifting meatheads who think that the size of their biceps is an indication of their strength … the preening leaders who don’t want to get dirty, and the look-at-me former athletes who have always been told they are stars …. In short, those who fail are the ones who focus on show.

Some men who seemed impossibly weak at the beginning of SEAL training—men who puked on runs and had trouble with pull-ups—made it. Some men who were skinny and short and whose teeth chattered just looking at the ocean also made it. Some men who were visibly afraid, sometimes to the point of shaking, made it too.

Almost all the men who survived possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the “fist” of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose.

Eric Greitens, “The SEAL Sensibility,” The Wall Street Journal (5-7-11)

To all the families of men and women who died because of their dedication to a higher purpose, there are not words to express the depth of our gratitude. And not just on this Memorial Day weekend, but every day we enjoy our freedoms as Americans.

Q4U: What are you doing this Memorial Day weekend? Does your family have any Memorial Day traditions?



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