Memorial Day Speech

Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day after the Civil War when an organization of Union Veterans established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.

From 1775 to present The United States of America has lost over 664,440 men and women in combat.  When you add these Americans to lives lost due to complications from wounds, diseases and illnesses, America has lost over 1,354,664 Men and Women defending this country.

Here are some but not all battles, campaigns and wars America has fought in and the sacrifices made by our brave men and women to preserve our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…

291,557 Americans were killed in combat in World War 2

33,686 Americans were killed in combat in the Korean War

47,424 Americans were killed in combat in the Vietnam War

18 Americans were killed in combat in the Invasion of Grenada

23 Americans were killed in combat in the Invasion of Panama

29 Americans were killed in combat in Somalia

1,742 Americans killed in combat in Operation Enduring Freedom 

Collin Thomas, Christopher Wright, Martin Lugo

3,527 Americans killed in combat in Operation Iraq Freedom  

2 Americans killed in combat in Operation Inherent Resolve

Some say the worst wound of war is to be forgotten. As one of the greatest if not the greatest U.S. president Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address: “It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

With this opportunity I would like take a moment of silence to reflect and remember the soldiers, sailors, airmen, coast guardsmen and marines that have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Here is a little about my story and who I honor every day, namely, Specialist Christopher Shane Wright, KIA August 19, 2010, Operation Enduring Freedom. 

Wright's helmet at his memorial
I was a senior in high school on 9/11 when I watched the twin towers fall in my second period Criminal Justice class at Centennial High School in Roswell Georgia. It impacted me and I was compelled to do something about it.  So, I went home that day and told my mom I was joining the military.  

She gave me a look that was somewhat OK with my decision but without hesitation asked that I go to college first. She followed up by saying, “After College you can do whatever you want.” Unlike most of the decisions I made in my youth I listened to my mom and went to the University of Alabama. 

In my senior year I realized that I still wanted to join the military.  I was very intrigued and inspired by Pat Tillman’s story and coincidently I knew of a guy attending Alabama who was also an Army Ranger.  As I continued to think about joining the military I reached out to him with questions.  I quickly noticed there was something about him that I envied.  It was the way he stood and his self-confidence and I wanted that.

A few days later after staying up late studying for a Finance test I stopped in a local coffee shop called Bad Ass Coffee.  As I waited for my order I watched the news and saw a quick shot of some action in Iraq with bombs and gun fire going on in an Iraqi city I’d never heard of.  As I thought to myself about the military a feeling came over me that moved me and it wasn’t the coffee.  With this feeling of freedom I decided right then and there that I was going to take charge of my own destiny and join the military.  I left the coffee shop took my test and with the war in Iraq still on my mind I drove to the Army recruiting station and walked in and asked the recruiter for the hardest thing he’s got.  He said, “I have an Army Ranger contract or an SF contract.”  I said, “What’s the difference?”  He said, “If you want to be hardcore be an Army Ranger.”  I said, “Sign me up.”

The recruiter said, “Right now?” I said, “Yes, before I change my mind.” 

-Must have been that Bad Ass Coffee. 

After starting the process to enlist in the Army I drove home and it felt as though a thousand pounds had been lifted off of my shoulders.  I was doing what I wanted to do — not what others wanted me to do — and this feeling felt great. Before going home I stopped at a bookstore and bought a book called “To be an Army Ranger.” 

I went home and read the entire book that night.  The next morning I woke up threw all my books in my back pack and ran to class.  My lifestyle changed dramatically.  When I ran into friends they asked why I would do such a thing, especially right before I graduate.  Some were saying don’t do it and others were not surprised.  There comments were just noise to me. I didn’t care what anyone had to say.  I had a goal and it was to become an Army Ranger.

A few months later I graduated and a week after graduation I shipped off to basic training and never looked back.  After graduating from the Ranger Indoctrination Program I was assigned to the 1st Ranger Battalion and two months later I deployed to Iraq.  After three deployments to Iraq and one deployment to Afghanistan I deployed for the fifth time on July 4th 2010 to Jalalabad Afghanistan. By this time I had over three hundred direct action raid missions under my belt and was the senior team leader in the platoon when intelligence located a high valued target in the Pech Valley of the Kunar Province. 

The HVT was the third most wanted terrorist in Afghanistan, a Salafist commander and the leader of the Nuristan fighters, a sub network of the Taliban. The HVT was named Sayed Shah and he was known for being an expert with IED’s, rocket propelled grenades and small arms attacks and always traveled with a security team of two to three armed men.  He was directly linked to events responsible for killing and wounding American soldiers and needed to be captured or eliminated so that a company of soldier’s in the 101st Airborne operating out of the Pech Valley would be able to maintain operations in the Kunar Province.

After meticulous planning we flew into the Pech Valley and on the night of August the 18th and 19th — the mission to capture or kill Sayed Shah was a GO.  As cloud cover rolled in we lost our ISR platform and no longer had protection from above. We still had each other but lost a critical element that aided in our own protection.  As my team and our squad climbed onto a second story roof top preparing to make entry through a door an all-out gun fight erupted from directly above us on the third story rooftop.

Immediately two Ranger’s in my team, Ethan Gronbeck and Chris Wright were wounded along with two other Rangers in a different squad.  

What felt like an eternity only lasted a few minutes.

Chris Wright died a few hours later in surgery. 

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Chris Wright was an amazing warrior and was cut from the same cloth as the warriors that scouted with Washington, fought shoulder to shoulder at Gettysburg with Meade and Lee, braved the redoubt with Grant, charged the beach at Normandy and climbed the cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc.

Chris Wright was a warrior that did not fight for himself or glory, he fought for his brothers to his left and right.  Even as Chris endured overwhelming pain he never felt sorry for himself.  It still amazes me to this day how mentally tough, physically strong and morally straight Chris Wright was.  Specialist Christopher Shane Wright is a true American hero that lived a life so that Americans may have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Before joining the Army Chris’s mom asked him, “Why do you want to join the Army?” Chris said, “So that I can keep my brothers safe.”

Let it not be forgotten that the sacrifice Specialist Christopher Wright made along with the other 1,354,663 lives lost while defending our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the price of our Country’s freedom and like Colonel William O. Darby said, “We the living Ranger, will never forget our fallen comrades.  They and the ideas for which they fought will remain ever-present among us.  For we fully understand the extent of their heroic sacrifices, we will carry their spirit with us into all walks of life.  Into all corners of America our hearts join together in sorrow for their loss but also our hearts swell with pride to have fought alongside such valiant men.  They will never be considered dead for they live with us in spirit.”

 Rangers Lead the Way!

-Grant McGarry

 

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