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Veteran's Day: A Prayer for my Brothers and Sisters in Arms
Remembering those who are in harms way in a time of wars and rumors of wars.
This year, on Veteran’s Day, I’m going to let my hair down for a second and talk about some things I normally keep very separated from my political endeavors.
Those who know me well know that I hold a profound sense of professionalism. All through my early blogging years from 2016 to 2020, nobody knew I worked at the time as a law enforcement officer. And over this past year, only my very close friends and confidants were aware that I was deployed to the Middle East with the Army National Guard.
Serving as an infantryman in a mechanized unit, I spent a year in various locations throughout the CentCom region, including Kuwait, Iraq, and Syria. Many of the same locations in the headlines today are very familiar to me. Given the importance of operational security, especially in the present evolving security climate in the Middle East, I cannot go into many more details beyond that the chief role I filled was in keeping faith with the Kurds, who play a key role in assuring that ISIS remains a spent and defeated militant and terrorist force.
Blessfully, I completed my tour and returned home to my family before the latest escalation in attacks from Iran proxies against American forces. I am no longer in harm’s way. But, understandably, my thoughts and prayers as of late have perpetually centered upon my brothers and sisters in arms who continue the mission of deterrence and support of regional allies in the Middle East that I was so recently a part of.
And I would be lying if I didn’t confess my own conflicted emotions about the conclusion of my tour. I, of course, missed my family more than words can convey. I’m not an adrenaline junkie looking for danger, and I owe it to my wife and children, who need their husband and father, not to needlessly put myself at risk when I’ve already sacrificed so much. But there’s a certain spirit that animates the heart of an American warrior, one that people who haven’t served can never quite fully understand. The spirit of American fighting men and women is one where, if there’s a fight to be had, we want to be a part of it.
I have had more than a few sleepless nights of late thinking of the allies I patrolled alongside with, thinking of the American soldiers currently fulfilling the mission role I had once filled, and thinking about the forces arrayed against them who are escalating their efforts to force our retreat from the region. There’s a part of me that wishes I was still there and playing a role in this fight.
But I’m only one man, fully aware of man’s limitations and his full scope of duties and responsibilities. My children need me in their life. My wife needs my presence, my love and support. I have other skills and abilities I can bring to bear in other important endeavors. I served when asked to serve and fulfilled the role I was asked to fulfill, and that has to be enough.
And so my duty in this moment, on a Veteran’s Day in a time of wars and rumors of wars, is to remember and keep faith with those who are still in harm’s way. To be thankful there are enough us, though rarer and rarer we may be, who step forward to serve so that we can share the responsibilities of defending our nation and supporting our allies.
We must never forget that our freedoms are secured because there are those who are prepared to do violence on our behalf against those who want nothing more than to shatter our peace and liberty. We owe those in harm’s way a debt of gratitude that can never be paid.
Please join me today as I offer perpetual prayers of gratitude for the American warrior, for my brothers and sisters in arms, and may our thoughts dwell this day upon those facing increasing threats from enemies across the world as they stand in our defense and in the interests of peace and freedom against those forces who wish to spread death, despair, and tyranny.
“What is it through the battle smoke the valiant soldier sees?
The little garden far away, the budding apple trees,
The little patch of ground back there, the children at their play,
Perhaps a tiny mound behind the simple church of gray.
The golden thread of courage isn't linked to castle dome
But to the spot, where'er it be--the humble spot called home.
And now the lilacs bud again and all is lovely there
And homesick soldiers far away know spring is in the air;
The tulips come to bloom again, the grass once more is green,
And every man can see the spot where all his joys have been.
He sees his children smile at him, he hears the bugle call,
And only death can stop him now--he's fightin' for them all.”
-Edgar Guest, The Thing That Makes a Soldier Great
Justin Stapley is the Founding and Executive Director of the Freemen Foundation as well as Editor in Chief of the Freemen News-Letter. He served in the Utah and Colorado Army National Guards from 2008-2014 as a weapons mechanic and light infantryman, and has served in the Idaho National Guard since 2022 as a mechanized infantryman. @JustinWStapley