In his recent speech to Congress, President Trump took the opportunity to pay tribute to Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL member killed in Yemen and the first military combat fatality of Trump’s presidency. The president stated that
Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation… Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity… For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country and for our freedom. And we will never forget Ryan.”
Trump’s tribute produced a standing ovation lasting over two minutes, prompting Ryan’s wife, sitting in the crowd, to tears. Of course, some pundits lost no time in denouncing the tribute, accusing Trump of cynically using his “bully pulpit” to deflect criticism of the raid that resulted in Owen’s death, and even accused Trump and his Defense Secretary, James Mattis, of falsifying the record to justify the raid. Nevertheles, most viewers respected Trump’s decision to honor a fallen hero.
And indeed, the people who serve in our military forces deserve our deepest gratitude. Living in a peaceful democracy, we tend to forget that what we have is not free. Democracies do not just spring into existence through some sort of spontaneous generation; they are purchased through blood. We are rightfully concerned about the violence that has punctuated many of our cities, but most of us manage to make it through our daily lives without facing death daily. We do not have to bribe government officials in order to survive, and we do not starve in famine or thirst in drought. This, however, is not the necessary and natural condition of human society; far from it. Our safety and security is due to the sacrifices of previous generations and a select few of our own generation. It is our responsibility to see to it that their sacrifice was not in vain by ensuring that our streets are safe, that our freedoms (such as the freedom of speech that is being undermined on so many campuses) are respected, and that our communities thrive. In the face of sacrifices, like that of Ryan Owens, we are forced to live up to that which they died for.