The mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad is to "locate, close with and destroy the enemy."
But what does that mean? How do people experience those words?
I’m calling for Seabass over the radio, but he isn’t answering. I don’t know what’s going on next door, so I run downstairs and into the other house. The ground floor is on fire. Landgrebe, a 20-year-old lance corporal, has been shot through both legs and he’s dragging himself toward the front door. A can of gasoline sits in a corner and someone has lit a bunch of blankets and mattresses on fire, as if the insurgents want to burn down the house with themselves and us inside ... We’re lobbing grenades around the corners, there’s dust everywhere, I unload my pistol into the next room because I’m too scared to step into the room with my rifle.
The Marines in Falluja – 82 who didn't come home – completed their mission as outlined above. Ackerman and his men served their country with distinction in the most intense situation imaginable. As his boss noted, everything he "ever did after that would seem inconsequential."
There are many noble ways to serve one's country or community, but we recognize and honor more than service on Memorial Day.
We recognize that, as Theodore Roosevelt once stated, "dark and sordid forces of evil" exist in the world.
We honor the Americans who fought those evil forces – and never came home – so that their fellow citizens did not have to do the same.
They were the best of us.