Memorial Day is a sacred holiday for American servicemen and women across the globe. On this day, we honor those who have died in the service of our nation. For civilians, it is my belief that it is impossible for us to imagine what our armed forces personnel and their families go through in the course of their service.
As I wrapped up my American History course with Colorado Academy Sophomores this year, we spent time looking at the root causes of 9/11 and the resulting war in Afghanistan. The Biden administration has announced it is decreasing the U.S. military presence there. Since 9/11, more than 2,300 U.S. personnel have died in Afghanistan.
It is important for young people to understand our past and the forces of history that lead nations to war. I show a documentary film in my history classes called Restrepo. It’s produced by the master journalist Sebastian Junger and based on his book, War. It is an unflinching look at how combat impacted an airborne unit stationed in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan. In it, excruciating scenes show the soldiers talking about the loss of their comrades. In one scene that is very thoughtfully filmed, a group of soldiers comes across the body of one of the best soldiers in their unit. It’s an absolutely powerful scene that gives insight into the weight that many of our combat veterans carry for the rest of their lives. Only a day after that encounter, their unit ran into another Taliban ambush, and another fellow soldier was killed. It’s hard to turn away from a powerful segment on 60 Minutes that profiles Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for rescuing comrades in an act of extraordinary valor. I encourage you to watch it, as it’s something that captures the brutality of what our troops face, as well as the bravery and courage our American forces display. I admire their willingness to put their lives on the line to save others in the moment of incredible loss.
In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln talked about soldiers who had given “the last full measure” for their nation. I hope that, this weekend, you can read, watch, and reflect on the heroes of our nation—those who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today.