Traditional Values

Navy SEAL Defines Memorial Day

Republican congressional candidate Derrick Van Orden understands the meaning of the day.

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Former Navy SEAL and current Republican congressional candidate Derrick Van Orden gives us a personal perception on the meaning of Memorial Day.

Van Orden: “Memorial Day is not about the living. Today is not about all that have served or all that have served and have since gone on to their reward. That is what Veteran’s Day is for.

Today is a celebration of every man and woman who died while wearing a uniform of the United States of America. It is imperative that we speak for those that can no longer speak, to make a payment on a debt that can never be repaid, to ensure that if the memories of those who died in service of their country have faded, that at least the understanding of why they died does not.

This is our Duty. The want and need to pay homage to our benefactors is not exclusively the purview of America. All nations seek to acknowledge those amongst them who have died protecting them. With all that separates world cultures, this is a unifying phenomenon. We hold reverent those who have sacrificed themselves for our benefit and betterment. One of the finest examples of this is a memorial near parliament in England, it is called The Cenotaph – ‘The Empty Tomb.’

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It is a monument to those lost in the First World War whose remains will never be recovered. They sacrificed themselves for generations that they would never know and for whom they would only become a distant memory. They died on the altar of democracy. The Memorial is marked with the phrase: ‘The Glorious Dead.’

As a society, we no longer think in this manner, that there can be glory in death, not simply dignity. But in our times we have had many examples of this. Michael Monsoor was a fellow SEAL, younger than me. We were both stationed on the west coast during the Iraq war.

29 September, 2006 in Ramadi, Iraq. Mike and two other SEALs were in an over watch position on a rooftop engaging the enemy sporadically. During the engagement, an insurgent threw a grenade into their position. Mike was standing in the door. The grenade landed between him and his fellow SEALs. He could have jumped out of the door and saved himself. Instead, he warned his Teammates and then dove on the grenade. He died of his injuries. At his memorial, the two men whose lives he saved stood on the stage at First Presbyterian Church in San Diego and looked at Mike’s mother. They thanked her for raising such a good man because if she had not, they would be dead.

This is what we are celebrating today. The greatest virtues that can be attributed to the human condition. This is what the artists were speaking of when they wrote those powerful words on the Cenotaph.vThere is no other way to describe the man that performed this act and tens of thousands more that we will never know of other than: “The Glorious Dead.”

Without convoluting the meaning of Memorial Day, I believe that due to the recent national tragedy, most recently passed, people’s eyes have been opened in a way that allows them to see what veterans and Gold Star families have known for years. We have been granted what can be considered a blessing or a curse. We have had friends and family killed on active duty. The reason this can be perceived as a curse is obvious, but the reason I consider this a blessing is more obscure.

We know the strength of sorrow. We understand the profound nature of loss. This has given us the understanding of what is actually important in life, and with time, the patience to love those who do not. I know the value of life. I have seen with my eyes the best and worst that man is capable of. I have witnessed love of mankind so profound that it is written about in the Bible. To us then, the living. Do not waste the time we have been granted by those who have fallen.

Look to the ones closest to you. Your family. Tell them today, now, that you love them. If there is something petty between you that keeps you from doing this, remember those who have sacrificed their lives for you and sacrifice your foolish pride. Forgive. Celebrate the day, live the moment that those who died for our freedom would if they were here with us now. Love your God and Country. Although today we celebrate those who belong to the ages, find comfort in knowing that there are still yet others standing The Watch, keeping us safe, willing to give the last full measure of devotion so we may sleep in peace.”

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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