I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
This is the oath that all members of the military must take upon being accepted as a soldier, a sailor, a marine, or an airman. You raise your right hand, and you repeat it following a dictation by a superior officer.
I’ve taken this oath twice, and the words still hold a special meaning for me. They mean that you understand that there is something greater than your own individual existence, and that you will lay down that existence for the sake of the United States of America.
Your allegiance to the President and those officers appointed over you is a mark of your fidelity, while the dedication to the UCMJ is an affirmation of your dedication to professionalism.
Many Americans have taken this oath. Many Americans currently work and fight under the principles embodied in these words. In today’s time of war, this is done under the shadow of death.
For these men and women, they are not celebrities, you will most likely never hear most of their names. Movies will not be made about them, nor books written. Often times their job is thankless, and sometimes, they don’t return home alive.
But there are two names you will become familiar with, two men who took this oath and have perished exemplifying the ideals of service in the United States Military. Their courage both on the battlefield and in the public consciousness should never be forgotten.
Graduating from a class of just eighteen students, Yance T. Gray hailed from Eastern Montana and was one of only five in his graduating class to enlist in the military. An avid hunter and player on his high school basketball team, “Tell” as close friends and family called him would marry his girlfriend Jessica and father a baby daughter.
Working his way through the ranks, Sgt. Gray was a member of the 82nd Airborne division, and his tour of duty was scheduled to end in November.
In seemingly another world, Texas City, Texas, Omar Mora graduated from La Marque High School. Unlike Tell, Omar had tried several jobs on the outside and college before enlisting in the Army. According to his parents, he always wanted to be a soldier and didn’t hesitate to go to Iraq to serve his country.
Married, Omar also had a daughter.
Both serving in the Army’s 82nd Airborne, America at large would not come to know Sgt. Gray and Sgt. Mora’s names until August 19th of this year. Omar and Tell joined with five other soldiers to pen a critical OpEd in the New York Times entitled, The War As We Saw It.
I had done a small write up of their passing, not really expecting anyone to read. I definitely didn’t expect the father in law of Yance Gray to leave a comment. As of the time of this writing, approximately 3700 men and women have died in Iraq, and while I honor all of their sacrifices deeply, none of them were personal.
None had a face, and while it’s easy to speak with indignation about not letting these fallen soldiers become a statistic, such a thing is a little more complicated in actual practice. I have never known personally a soldier who had fallen on the field of battle. I’ve not lost any family members or close friends. As much as I hate to say it, to a degree, 3700 has become just a number, a statistic.
Mr. Kenn Duncan changed that.
You say it over and over again, that these numbers have meaning, that they are fathers and sons and brothers and sisters and mothers and members of their community with best friends and people praying for their safe return, but it took the father in law of a fallen soldier to bring it home to me.
Since, I’ve read the mournful remembrances of his closest friends, and have anguished over the photograph of him standing with his lovely wife and beautiful daughter. I have spent much time over the past week or so trying to piece together the lives of Tell and Omar, and while I can never say that I was their friend, I can not feel the grief their families must still burn with, I can say that I have somehow come closer to understanding, and knowing that the world lost two great Americans, soldiers, and men that day.
Further, their conviction and courage has impressed upon me most profoundly. While still serving in the military I grew politically active and started blogging, but fearing some sort of backlash or reprimand, did so anonymously, not revealing my true name until after leaving the US Navy.
These men stood proudly by what they had to say about how they felt and what they had seen. Without reservation they attached their names to their sentiments, and sent it to THE paper of record. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.
You don’t have to agree with the Iraq War to support the brave men and women in our armed forces. You don’t have to agree with the politics. The way I see it, it all comes down to that oath, and what it stands for.
These soldiers took a simple oath, they stood up and said that the ideals of America were bigger than they were, and that for those ideals, they would without question sacrifice their lives.
That’s what this is all about. From one day to the next we can bicker and argue over whether a certain war is right or wrong, but at the end of it all, there must be an understanding that men and women like Sgt. Gray and Sgt. Mora, despite the partisan battles that go on back home, continue to day in and day out perform their duties as soldiers.
Remember the closing words of their OpEd, “As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”
We as Americans have much we can stand to learn from soldiers such as Yance and Omar. Least of which is that this very same spirit of fidelity fuels not only the flame from which this country was born, but exists to this day.
This taken into consideration, I do not wish to honor their service, I am compelled to. I cannot personally look at myself in the mirror unless I have been a part of something to commemorate their passing, and show my gratitude for their service.
After exploring several options, we have decided to donate 100% of the funds to the Fisher House charity, an organization we have worked with in the past. Fisher House has a simple goal; to build houses near military medical facilities. Here loved ones of those who have been injured in the line of duty can stay free of charge while their service member undergoes necessary treatment.
We urge you to give what you can to this noble cause for only in this way can Omar and Tell continue to make the lives of their fellow soldiers better even after their passing. I can think of no honor more fitting of a soldier.
- Kyle E. Moore
ADMINISTRATIVE PORTION OF THE POST
NOTE TO BLOGGERS: We urge you to join with us in promoting this fund raising drive. We have set our initial goal at $2,000 but we hope that with your help we can exceed this number dramatically. All you need to do is put up a post of your own tracking back to our original post and linking to our fund raising page on ActiveGiving. I will regularly update this post with information on the progress of our drive that you can add to your site. If you have any questions please contact me (Michael Tedesco) at michael(at)commentsfromleftfield(dot)com.
Kyle and I have made the first donations on behalf of Comments From Left Field so here is our progress bar as of 3:15 PM EDT today.
7:26 PM EDT, 9-25-2007 – We are making very good progress considering the fund drive has only been in effect for seven hours (see updated image below).
9:18 AM EDT, 9-26-2007 – We are making good progress with our total collected now sitting at $325 and 8 blog partners. Keep up the good work and spread the word!
11:11 AM EDT, 9-26-2007 - $355 and growing…
1:50 PM EDT, 9-26-2007 - $476 (special thanks to Mac)
4:03 PM EDT, 9-26-2007 - $626, this is amazing progress keep up the good work!
4:30 PM EDT, 9-26-2007 - Crooks and Liars has again posted on this drive, this time making a direct plea, and the results are incredible. From the time of their post we have received seven new donations. If this keeps up we may have to increase our goals!
11:35 PM EDT, 9-26-2007 – This will be the last update of the day. First, I need to clarify that the progress image atop this post and below requires manual updating. If you wish to see the latest tally for this fundraiser click the image and it will take you to our page on Active.com. I am very proud to say that we in little more than a day after launching this campaign we have already achieved 93% of our goal. Thank you to everyone that has donated and special thanks to those bloggers that have participated in publicizing this effort.
11:30 EDT, 9-27-2007 – In order to open up the commenting section on this post we have chosen to remove the “sticky” function and instead put a graphic in the upper left corner of the blog with a direct link to this drive.
With the help of many bloggers and their readers, our initial goal of $2,000 has been shattered. Rather than lose this momentum we have decided to extend this fund raising drive for two full weeks from it’s date of inception which makes the end date October 9, 2007. I have reset our target to $10,000 which, based on the response thus far, is fully achievable.
UPDATE 9-28-2007 - Just a couple of quick things worth mentioning.
UPDATE 9-30-2007 - Sorry for the lack of an update yesterday but I have been preparing for a long business trip and simply didn’t have the time. There was a significant development yesterday that contributed significantly to our overall collections. Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly blog Political Animal gave us the following plug and since we have received another flood of donations.
The lesson learned here is that each and every one of you that signs on to this effort helps raise the awareness and makes it more likely that a high profile site will join in the promotion. Please continue to push this effort in any venue you are familiar. Also, don’t forget to DIGG this post by clicking here.
Since our progress graphic requires manual updating it is only being updated once a day. To view the progress in real time please click on the graphic below.
Below is a running list of participating bloggers. Please contact me if I am missing your site (same info as above). -michael
Thank you all for your support.