Up at 4:00a.m. organizing files on hard drives and ran across this speech. I have not seen it since I delivered it just over ten years ago. I gave this speech in the dead of night, standing in a hangar on Campbell Army Airfield. It was delivered to the cavalrymen of Task Force Pale Horse the night we walked out the door and began a year in Afghanistan that would forever change our lives. Knowing what I know now, knowing what was to come, it is surreal to read this. I thought I’d share. Again, this was delivered to the soldiers and their families who came to see them off.
I’d like to begin by thanking the families who stand behind the great men and women of this Task Force. My remarks might appear to be directed at the Soldiers on the surface, but I hope you know that there is not a man or woman wearing the uniform that does not have a family or friend that enabled them to stand proudly here today to answer our nations call. I haven’t the words to express my gratitude for the humbling opportunity to serve as your Task Force Commander.
I know that this deployment is difficult for many of you. To say goodbye as your loved ones depart for a year into harm’s way is in no way an easy task. In some ways this is one of the most difficult things we do. I do not claim to be able to make those emotions go away, but I do hope to give you some sense of perspective of the mission upon which you are about to embark.
At 8:46 a.m. Eastern Standard Time Tuesday, September 11, 2001, America as we knew her changed in the twinkling of an eye, when American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, thrusting us into a Global War on Terrorism.
At 9:02 a.m. United Airlines flight 175 ripped into the south tower of the World Trade Center and 35 minutes later American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon; 27 minutes later United Airlines flight 93, hijacked and bound for the National Capitol Region crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh. In a mere 90 minutes 3,222 American citizens were killed. The fires around ground zero burned for 99 days while our nation mourned.
On October 7th, 2001, operations began against Al Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Since that day 4,683 U.S. military service men and women have lost their lives and countless others have been wounded in the war against those who have sworn to extinguish the light of America.
Our generation has witnessed more American deaths, on American soil, in one day, than any other generation since the battle of Antietam, which took place in September 1862 – 139 years ago.
We must not underestimate the gravity of the task that lies before us. We are wise to expect many disappointments, and many unpleasant surprises, but we may be sure that the task which we have freely accepted is one not beyond the capability or determination of our nation, our Army, and our Task Force. We are a generation of Americans ready to meet the task which lies before us.
Many critics argue that we should turn our backs on this war and come home, but to quote the Bolshevik Leon Trotsky, “We may not be interested in the long war, but the long war is interested in us.” This war must be fought. The enemy has already made a decision so we are now faced with a choice; to seek them out and fight them in places like Tikrit, the Korengal valley, Jalalabad, and the Konar or to wait here for them to come to us. Can you imagine a life where you are scared to let your children go to the mall or a baseball game? I was recently asked what my thoughts were on this war and, among other things, I said, “I believe every child should begin their day by standing beside their desk, placing their hand over their hearts, pledging allegiance to our flag and singing the national anthem. Then I think they should bow their heads and pray to their God, whatever they call him, and thank him/her/or it for the freedoms they have in this great nation and for the men and women who ensure those freedoms.” Your presence here demonstrates that you have made the choice to take the fight to the enemy and to stand as sentinels for America’s freedoms.
This is not a question of fighting for a third world country whose business is not ours. Make no mistake; we go to the Pesh, the Korengal, and the Chowkay to fight for Clarksville, Oak Grove, and Hopkinsville. We go to fight an enemy that would change our way of life in small towns all across America, and we fight to save the whole world from the pestilence of radicalized Islamic tyranny and in defense of all that is most sacred to man. This is no war of imperialism for material gain. As Winston Churchill stated on September 3rd, 1939, “It is a war, viewed in its inherent quality, to establish, on impregnable rocks, the rights of the individual, and it is a war to establish and revive the stature of man.”
Like the Pearl Harbor generation before us, 9/11 is a day that will live in infamy, a day we will always remember, a day that will serve as a constant reminder that freedom is never free and that the price of our way of life will demand that, as George Orwell wrote, “rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” – that there may always be a land of the free and a home of the brave.
Now, let us go forward to the tip of our nations spear and write another chapter in history; a chapter that will forever note the good deeds of great men and women who had the courage to answer our nations call at a time of great turmoil and war; a chapter titled PaleHorse!
* Photos by Russell Klika