The Patriot Post® · To Honor Their Sacrifice
“A republic … if you can keep it.” —Benjamin Franklin (1787)
Last Saturday, thousands of Chattanooga Patriots gathered to observe a somber one-year anniversary: that of the murder of five unarmed military personnel in our city by an Islamic terrorist. We celebrated the lives of Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith.
On Friday night, Marine Sgt. DeMonte Cheely, who was wounded but survived the attack, was an honored guest at the third annual Heroes Dinner sponsored by Honoring the Sacrifice Foundation (HSF).
This column is dedicated to the severely wounded post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients and their families who are served by HSF, and all those from previous generations who have served and sacrificed more than most Americans can possibly comprehend.
In March 2012, I received word from one of our Patriot staff that a local young man, Army 82nd Airborne Specialist Andrew Smith, had been severely injured in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device (IED). Andrew’s parents, Todd and Cathy, are widely known and respected in our community.
Andrew left for his first tour in February 2012, just a few weeks after marrying his sweetheart, Tori. On March 8th, the future planned by Andrew and Tori took a dramatic turn. While on his first patrol near Kandahar, Andrew lost both legs and suffered severe abdominal wounds from an IED detonation. Once stabilized, Andrew was transported to Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland, where he began a long protocol of surgeries, therapy and rehab — his wife and family at his side, and his community providing support.
Since the 9/11 attack, over the course of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, 6,884 Americans were killed in theater, most of them combat deaths. But more than 17,000 suffered significant wounds. Prior to 1990, many of these injuries would have been fatal, but due to improved body armor, up-armored vehicles, improved field medic capabilities and rapid evacuation, 90% of severe combat injuries are now survivable.
Among the OEF and OIF wounded are 1,559 amputees, the majority of them double amputees like Andrew. His road to recovery presented almost insurmountable challenges, but through faith and family he would do much more than just recover.
Despite the severity of his wounds, Andrew and Tori have truly turned tragedy into triumph.
In 2013, they and a team of volunteers formed HSF. They did so to pay forward the support they had received, assisting other severely wounded veterans by providing needed financial and material resources to them and their immediate families. HSF also promotes community awareness and opportunities to express gratitude for the sacrifices that our military men and women make on a daily basis.
Andrew now says with humility, “I’m almost thankful about this injury.” And Tori adds, “It was terrible, but God has turned it into a blessing — to know that Andrew is here because God spared him, it’s hard to complain about anything.”
And that brings me to the keynote address for the HSF event.
Today, many Americans recognize the name Allen West. But in 2003, that wasn’t the case when he was charged with violating Articles 128 (assault) and 134 (general article) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
A University of Tennessee graduate and third-generation soldier with 22 years in the Army, Allen was serving near Tikrit, Iraq, in 2003, when he received an intelligence briefing of a pending plot to ambush men under his command. He was advised that an Iraqi police for member — the loyalties of whom were highly suspect — had information about the imminent attack. In order to coerce details from this man, LTC West discharged his sidearm within safe proximity of a bad guy’s head to convince him to divulge what he knew about the plot. In an Article 32 investigation in November 2003, West stated, “I know the method I used was not right, but I wanted to take care of my soldiers.”
Hearing about the case from friends in the Iraq theater, we used The Patriot Post’s outreach to inform the public about the charges and obtained hundreds of thousands of signatures on a certified petition to President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, arguing West’s case in the court of public opinion. That campaign in part, prompted a letter supporting West signed by 95 members of Congress and appealing to the Secretary of the Army.
Consequently, Allen’s charges were referred for an Article 15 proceeding rather than court-martial, and he was able to retire in 2004 with full rank and benefits. Asked in that proceeding if he would act differently in hindsight, West testified, “If it’s about the lives of my soldiers at stake, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can.” (Notably, there were no ambushes against American forces in Tikrit until after West was relieved of his command.)
After separating from the Army, Allen worked as a defense contractor and, most notably, became the first black Republican since 1876 elected to Congress from Florida. After serving two terms, the Democrat National Committee and Democrat Party of Florida realized that a tough and brilliant black conservative was a serious threat to their party’s decades-long stranglehold on the black vote, so they gerrymandered West’s district. He lost his 2012 re-election bid by 2,146 votes. He is now CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, but he was in Chattanooga on his own time in support of his fellow veterans.
What follows are excerpts of Allen’s remarks about honoring — and dishonoring — the sacrifice of military Patriots:
“We just celebrated 240 years of American Independence. We should remember the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. We must honor their sacrifice as we live each and every day, and remember that we live in a country where your inalienable rights do not come from man, but from our Creator. No man can guarantee your happiness, but unfortunately we have people in this country who believe that they can. We should not honor them. That is not who we are.
"When we think about what happened here in Chattanooga a year ago, in San Bernardino, in Orlando, and what happened at Fort Hood, Texas, and elsewhere, the fact that we continue to dismiss [radical Islam], the fact that we continue to have faux arguments about ‘gun control,’ that’s not how we honor the sacrifice of our warriors and veterans.
"A year ago the United States of America signed an agreement with the number-one state sponsor of Islamic terrorism in the world, Iran, and gave them billions of dollars. We’re not honoring the sacrifices of Americans who have been killed by Iranian proxy terrorist groups.
"We’re not honoring the sacrifices of all the men and women who have lost their lives and limbs, because the number-one supplier of the most lethal improvised explosive devices (explosively formed penetrators), responsible for 25% of the deaths and casualties in Iraq, were produced in Iran.
"If we are to honor the sacrifices, from Lexington Green and Concord Bridge to the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan today, we have a responsibility as American citizens to train and educate ourselves and future generations on what it means to live in a constitutional Republic, where the Rule of Law is pre-eminent, a place where individual sovereignty and rights are pre-eminent.
"If we don’t do that, then we are not honoring the sacrifices of 240 years of men and women who have pledged to ”Support and Defend“ our Constitution with their lives.
"If we are going to honor their sacrifices, we have to start talking about victory. When was the last time you heard [Barack Obama] say we’re going to take the fight to the enemy? When was the last time anyone [in his administration] had the courage, the resolve, and the commitment to stand up and say, ‘I’m sick and tired of these bastards — and we’re going to kill them all!’?
"We do not honor the sacrifices of our men and women in combat when we impose upon them the strictest rules of engagement which restrict engaging the enemy until fired upon. Any of us who have been in a firefight can tell you that will cede the initiative to the bad guys, and our men and women are losing their lives.
"If we had more people on Capitol Hill who had been on the receiving end of an AK-47, an RPG or PKM, who have gone into a firefight in the middle of the night on our behalf, who were willing to lay their lives down for the oath they have taken, then we would have a completely different country. And we would have an enemy who was fleeing away from us.
"We would not make agreements with a country that would put our sailors on their knees at gun point and Secretary of State John Kerry then thanked Iran for ‘their cooperation.’ That’s not how we honor their sacrifice.
"If we want to honor their sacrifices, we would come to terms with the fact that we have an Army that is at pre-WWII force levels. We have a Marine Corps that is at World War I force levels. Our Navy is at pre-1917 force levels. And our Air Force has the smallest and oldest flight line since it was created.
"This ‘new norm’ is not how we honor the sacrifices of all who have gone before. We put men and women in the field to serve us as guardians of our Republic. The deteriorated state of our Armed Forces does not honor their sacrifices.
"The only thing our enemies respect is strength and might, and we do not honor the sacrifices of our warriors if we are not willing to rebuild our military capacity and exercise that strength and might.
"I do not understand [Obama’s] military or national security priorities. When this administration is more concerned with "transgendered” people being in the military and spending tax dollars for so-called “gender reassignment” rather than for weapons and aircraft, we are not honoring the sacrifice. (For the record, there is no such thing a “transgendered,” and the word itself constitutes an egregious deception. A gender disoriented person may “identify” as the other gender, but they will always be the same gender they were at conception. The notion of so-called “gender reassignment” is equally fallacious.)
"On September 17th, 1787, the day our Constitution was signed, Dr. Benjamin Franklin came out on the steps of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and was met by an influential Revolutionary-era woman, Elizabeth Powell. She asked him, "What have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
“If we are to honor the sacrifice of those brave men, it’s time for us to take responsibility. We have a responsibility as American citizens to keep our constitutional Republic. If we don’t, we are not honoring the sacrifices of the last 240 years of our nation.”
Publisher’s Note: Fellow Patriots, I encourage you to support Honoring the Sacrifice Foundation with your gift in any amount. The vets they serve have sacrificed for a lifetime. Our commitment to them should be likewise. Watch the HSF video. We recommend local veteran organizations run by volunteers, like HSF, rather than the big national groups, which spend too much of their revenue on salaries, fundraising and advertising rather than wounded vets.
Pro Deo et Constitutione — Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis