Letter From A Veteran

Morgan McCombe, Class of 2016

Dear Reader,

I am a Marine, and a veteran of the Iraq War. I am writing this letter to give my respect and gratitude to my brothers and sisters in arms who have served in the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. I cannot, and would not presume to, speak on behalf of anyone else. I simply offer my observations as a veteran and a citizen.

As our country is engaged in the longest war in American history, it is incumbent upon each of us to reflect upon the meaning and significance of our country’s presence in the world, and those who sacrifice so that others will not have to.

The United States military is currently an all-volunteer force, which means that every man and woman in uniform took an oath and swore to put everything on the line because they heard the call and they chose to serve.

The purpose of Veterans Day has been to commemorate Armistice Day, the signing of the peace treaty after World War I. In recent decades, Veterans Day has been a time to reflect on the service and sacrifice of patriots who served in the armed services, and no less important, a time to exercise our constitutional freedom to protest political and ideological stances we may disagree with.

Despite our differences, we can acknowledge and respect the courage it takes to stand facing the nation’s flag and swear to protect the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, and to accept the responsibility that the country may send you to war.

The separation that exists between veterans and civilians presents a challenge for our society. As our veterans are returning home in great numbers, it will be difficult for veterans to adjust to civilian life, while at the same time civilians will face the unenviable task of trying to understand and to support veterans as they integrate back into their communities.

This Veterans Day, I encourage you to remember a veteran who gave everything for his country. Chris Kyle was the best of us, a veteran, a SEAL, the deadliest sniper in American history, The Legend. Beyond the myth, Kyle is a symbol of everything veterans stand for. After four tours of duty, the one thing he wished he could have done differently was to save more of his fellow servicemen.

Kyle fearlessly confronted his struggle to return to civilian life after experiencing the horror and tragedy of war. After he left the Navy, Kyle continued to support his fellow veterans by offering his friendship and by sharing his experience. His exploits are chronicled in his book and the film American Sniper. Tragically, Kyle’s life ended suddenly, when he was murdered by another veteran he was trying to help.

I had admired Kyle for a number of years prior to the release of the movie, and I was excited to see that his movie had become so popular. I must admit that it took me a long time to work up the courage to watch the film because Kyle was such an inspiration to me and because he is such a meaningful figure for veterans. The day he died, I selfishly felt a tremendous sense of loss and I felt that it would be difficult for many civilians to understand the significance of what Kyle had accomplished. I worried that many veterans would never bridge the divide and fully return to civilian life, that veterans would feel isolated and unable to relate to society.

Chris Kyle was a man who would be the first to tell you that he did not think of himself as a hero. However, to those he inspired at home and to the Marines Kyle provided over watch for, Kyle represented something significant. To those he served with, he was The Legend, a warrior idealized for his courage and superhuman exploits. To the Marines, he was a guardian angel providing a watchful shroud of protection. And to those at home, he was a paragon of sacrifice and patriotism.

Kyle’s significance in the community was most readily apparent at his funeral service, at which the entire city of Austin ground to a halt to mourn the death of a great American. While Kyle’s death was awful and tragic, the celebration of his life was also a tremendously unifying event that highlighted the country’s overwhelming support for its veterans.

I believe Kyle is deserving of respect and remembrance because he stands as a symbol for veterans across our nation and a reminder of the service our veterans have given. Veterans Day is a time to reflect on what our veterans have given, and it is an opportunity to support veterans by welcoming them back into our communities. I encourage you to remember Kyle because he is a symbol of what Veterans Day is about, honoring those who have the courage to serve.

Semper Fi,

Morgan McCombe