Honor. Duty. Country.
This was written by Gold Star Mom Amy Branham:
These three words may be only words to you and to me, ordinary citizens of the United States of America. To our men and women in the armed services, however, they are a code to live by. They live with honor. They do their duty and they serve their country.
These words are the words I had inscribed on my son's headstone three years ago next month. They are the code he lived by, the words that helped to make him the fine young man he had become.
Honor. Duty. Country. They are the words, the code of honor and ethics every person who serves this country, whether in the military or as an elected representative, should live by.
Today I am here to call upon the elected representatives of the United States of America to listen to the American people. We want the war in Iraq to end. We want our soldiers to come home. The American people have spoken, and we have told you loud and clear that we do not support this ill-begotten war. We do not trust our commander in chief any longer.
I realize that many of our elected officials, present company excepted, are riding the fence on this issue. Some, like John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, are still firmly behind the president and support him for reasons I cannot understand. Maybe they are fearful of losing their jobs, of backing away from a fellow Texan, of cutting rank.
It is to these people that I speak. I tell you that it is time to muster up what courage you can find - and believe me, you can do it when you have to - and take a stand against this war. You must take a stand and say that it is wrong. You must end this hideous nightmare and bring our troops home.
Let me tell you about courage. In doing so, I hope you will find even half the courage I tell you about.
All over this country tonight, there are mothers and fathers who have kissed and hugged their beloved sons and daughters goodbye, wiped away their tears, and sent them off to battle. One of these mothers that I am friends with does not want to leave her home because she is afraid she will miss a phone call from her son, who has been gone so long from his loving family. Another friend, when asked how her son was doing in Iraq, had to answer: "I don't know. I don't know whether he is dead or alive." This past week I received an email, forwarded from a colleague, from the wife of a helicopter pilot who was in the same unit as the helicopter that was shot down last weekend. She didn't know if her husband was dead or alive, and was terrified. It took days before she finally learned that he is alive. Many others were not so lucky. This takes a tremendous amount of courage. If the families of the soldiers you have sent into battle can live through sending their loved ones off into harm's way, fearful every moment for their safety, you can find the courage to stand up against this war.
Let's talk about the soldiers who do not know, sometimes, who the enemy is - yet day after day, they put on the gear and go out onto the streets of Baghdad, Sadr City, and other parts of Iraq. They are doing the bidding of their country, and of their commander in chief, who knows nothing of courage, honor, duty or integrity. These fine men and women in our military serve our country and do their duty in spite of everything. I know they are afraid. They are tired and battle-weary. Yet they continue to do their duty day after day under circumstances you can only have nightmares about. If the soldiers can courageously put their lives on the line every single moment of every single day for months, and in some cases, years, then you can and must find the courage to bring them home.
We can talk about the vets who return home from Iraq, only to be called upon to return time after time, again putting their lives on hold, their families and careers on the back burner. Many of them do not want to go, yet they go because duty calls. Or because their buddies are there. They go because they are people of honor and integrity the likes of which most of us will never again see in our lifetimes.
Let's talk about the courage it takes to live the rest of your life after you have buried your only son, who died so needlessly in this fool's war. At first you do not believe that the person you spent the majority of your adult life rearing is dead. But you have to pick out the casket. You have to find a funeral home and a cemetery and make funeral arrangements. You have to write an obituary and make terrible phone calls that you know will crush the person on the other end of the line. And then you have to figure out how in the hell to make sense out of something that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
The president has asked us to give his plan a chance. I say he has run out of chances. The president thinks we should trust him. Our trust ran out a long time ago.
The Bush administration told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Turns out they had none.
The Bush administration told us that Hussein had ties to Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Turns out that was a bold-faced lie.
The Bush administration told us that we were going to Iraq to help the Iraqi people and bring about "regime change." Saddam is now dead.
The Bush administration told us that we needed to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. They have had their elections. However, Iraq is in much worse shape now than it was before we, the American military and private civilian contractors, arrived.
We have accomplished the things that the president, his administration and the Republican-controlled government said we should do. Now, it's time for all of you to listen to We the People of the United States of America, to end this war and to bring our soldiers home. You can find the courage and the strength to do this. It is your responsibility and your duty to listen to us and do the right thing by our brave men and women. Cut off funding for the war. Leave enough money for the speedy withdrawal of our troops and bring our sons and daughters home. They have done their duty for you. Now it's time you did your duty for them.
Honor. Duty. Country. Three words to live by.
Gold Star Mother
Mother of Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith,
November 1981 - February 2004