Memorial Ceremony remarks from the Battle of COP Keating
9 October 2009 at FOB Bostick
Attempting to Memorialize a person during combat operations is a tenuous responsibilty to acknowledge the tragedy of our loss, the untimeliness of their death and the hope by which we will persevere back into the fight. The magnitude of loss suffered by the Black Knights of 3-61CAV during the Battle of COP Keating called for brevity and candor, because of the scope of the battle and the love which we have for our Fallen Heroes. My short homily was, at best, a brushing against the tip of the iceberg of grief, shock and confusion that my troopers endured during the weeks and months that followed. I, therefore, chose latitude in being directly spiritual in my remarks, because I know that the Comforter can do more than I can ask or imagine in their hearts, for healing.
I am convinced that there are few words which can assuage the shock and grief experienced by our squadron on the 3rd of October. As I listened to the narrative of the battle multiple times from those who inexplicably survived seemingly insurmountable odds, I saw that they not only fought off hundreds of insurgents, but also feelings of helplessness and fear. And it was in those moments of listening that I began to imagine exactly what the writer of the 23rd Psalm referred to as the “valley of the shadow of death”.
For the writer, as the canyon walls enclose him into a terrifying corridor through which he must walk, he focuses his mind and hardens his resolve that he is not doing so alone. The greatest consolation to him is the presence of God. It is not the intellectual knowledge of the existence of God that comforts the writer, but the fact that God would not allow his creation to navigate the pain of this world without Him. The presence of a God who would not subject humanity to undergo that which he did not himself experience. That same God who would submit himself to an agonizing execution, in order to remove the finality of death through resurrection. That is why his faith does not waver in the face of tremendous tragedy. C.S. Lewis was correct that where fear and pain exist, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the presence of God more than anything.
God desires that there be men of courage and valor who would stand up to face evil and oppression, because he knows that by heroism, men overcome pain and strengthen, harden and sharpen their characters till they become like tempered steel. We make the sacrifice of our brothers more expensive as we choose to not lose heart, as we remain convinced with unwavering conviction that in giving the last full measure they inspired us to press forward with audacity and confidence. Pain and adversity provide an opportunity for courage and heroism, and that opportunity is seized with surprising frequency.