So, I just wanted to perhaps make more of a statement than an explanation — give more of an explanation than what amounts to be a traditional press interaction.

Most Americans don’t know what happens when we lose one of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines or Coast Guardsman in combat.

So, let me tell you what happens.

Their buddies, wrap them up in whatever passes of a shroud, puts them on a helicopter as a routine, and sends them home. Their first stop along the way is when they are packed in ice, typically at the airhead, and then they are flown to usually Europe, where they’re then packed in ice again and flown to Dover Air Force Base, where Dover takes care of the remains, embalms them, meticulously dresses them in their uniform with the medals that they have earned, the emblems of their service, and then puts them on another airplane linked up with the casualty officer escort that takes them home.

A very, very good movie to watch, if you haven’t ever seen it, is “Taking Chance,” where this is done in a movie, HBO setting.

Chance Phelps was killed under my command right next to me. And it’s worth seeing that if you have never seen it. So that’s the process.

While that’s happening, a casualty officer typically goes to the home very early in the morning and waits for the first lights to come on. And then he knocks on the door. Typically, the mom and dad will answer, a wife.

And if there is a wife, this is happening in two different places, if the parents divorced, three different places.

And the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member and stays with that family until — well, for a long, long time, even after the internment. So that’s what happens.

Who are these young men and women? They are the best 1 percent this country produces. Most of you as Americans don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any one of them, but they are the very best this country produces.

And they volunteer to protect our country when there’s nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required. But that’s all right.

Who writes letters to the families? Typically, the company commander, in my case as a Marine, the company commander, battalion commander, regimental commander, division commander, secretary of defense, typically the service chief, commandant of the Marine Corps. And the president typically writes a letter.

Typically, the only phone calls a family receives are the most important phone calls they can imagine, and that is from their buddies. In my case, hours after my son was killed, his friends were calling us from Afghanistan, telling us what a great guy he was.

Those are the only phone calls that really matter. And, yes, the letters count a degree, but there’s not much that really can take the edge off what a family member is going through.

So, some presidents have elected to call. All presidents, I believe, have elected to send letters.

If you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most difficult thing you can imagine. There’s no perfect way to make that phone call.

When I took this job and talked to President Trump about how to do it, my first recommendation was he not do it, because it’s not the phone call that parents, family members are looking forward to. It’s nice to do, in my opinion, in any event.

He asked me about previous presidents, and I said I can tell you that President Obama, who was my commander in chief when I was on active duty, did not call my family. That was not a criticism. That was just to simply say, I don’t believe President Obama called. That’s not a negative thing.

I don’t believe President Bush called in all cases. I don’t believe any president, particularly when the casualty rates are very, very high, that presidents call.

But I believe they all write. So, when I gave that explanation to our president three days ago, he elected to make phone calls in the case of the four young men who we lost in Niger at the earlier part of this month.

And then he said, you know, what — how do you make these calls? If you’re not in the family, if you have never worn the uniform, if you have never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call.

I think he very bravely does make those calls.

The call in question that he made yesterday, day before yesterday now, were to four family members, the four fallen. And, remember, there’s a next of kin designated by the individual. If he’s married, that’s typically the spouse. If he’s not married, that’s typically the parents, unless the parents are divorced, and then he selects one of them.

If he didn’t get along with parents, he will select a sibling.

But the point is, the phone call is made to the next of kin, only if the next of kin agrees to take the phone call. Sometimes, they don’t
So, a pre-call is made.

The president of the United States or the commandant of the Marine Corps or someone would like to call. Will you accept the call?

And, typically, they all accept the call.

So, he called four people the other day, and expressed his condolences in the best way that he could.

And he said to me, what do I say?

I said to him, sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families. But let me tell you what I tell them. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me, because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war.

And when he died — and the four cases we’re talking about Niger, in my son’s case, in Afghanistan — when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends.

That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.

I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing, a member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife, and in his way tried to express that opinion that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero.

He knew what he was getting himself into, because he enlisted. There’s no reason to enlist. He enlisted. And he was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be, with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken.

That was the message. That was the message that was transmitted.

It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation, absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases.

Life, the dignity of life was sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer.

I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.

And when I listened to this woman and what she was saying and what she was doing on TV, the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them, because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.

I went over there for an hour-and-a-half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there, because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.

I’ll end with this.

And in October — or April, rather, of 2015, I was still on active duty. And I went to the dedication of the new FBI field office in Miami. And it was dedicated to two men who were killed in a firefight in Miami against drug traffickers in 1986 by the name of Grogan (ph) and Duke (ph).

Grogan almost retired, 53 years old. Duke, I think less than a year on the job. Anyways, they got in a gunfight and they were killed. Three other FBI agents were there, were wounded, now retired.

So, we go down. Jim Comey gave an absolutely brilliant memorial speech to those fallen men and the — and to all of the men and women of the FBI who serve our country so well and law enforcement so well.

There were family members there. Some of the children that were there were only 3 or 4 years old when their dads were killed on that street in Miami-Dade. Three of the men that survived the fight were there and gave a rendition of how brave those men were and how they gave their lives.

And a congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down.

And we were stunned, stunned that she’d done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

But, you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said, OK, fine.

So, I still hope, as you write your stories, and I appeal to America, that let’s not let this maybe last thing that is held sacred in our society, a young man, a young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country, let’s try to somehow keep that sacred.

But it eroded a great deal yesterday by the selfish behavior of a member of Congress.

[Postscript by Me, PH] Hat-tip to CNN for posting this online. I am also heart-broken that our society will applaud those who demean and discredit those who voluntarily serve their country and sometimes give that last full measure of devotion in the process. God bless you, General Kelly, a “Gold Star” Father and Semper Fi.

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  1. Why Nothing is Sacred Anymore


    Recently, the word sacred was in the news, when White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly lamented the fact that nothing is sacred anymore, especially in light of the brouhaha over the president’s phone call to a soldier’s widow.

    “When I was a kid growing up,” he said, “a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life, was sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.”

    The cynical reaction of the media to the general’s remarks about the sacredness of a soldier’s death only confirmed the truth of his observation. Indeed, nothing is sacred anymore in today’s political climate. There is nothing that cannot be turned into talking points for the liberal agenda.

    Reasons Why Nothing is Sacred
    There are many reasons why nothing is sacred anymore. One of them is because the sacred discriminates. It excludes.

    The sacred has always had a note of exclusivity. In its narrow sense, the sacred is anything dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of God. In a broader sense, it can apply to anything that is entitled to reverence and respect. The sacred evokes a sense of mystery and awe since it points to something above and beyond the person seeking to understand it.

    Implicit in the rejection of the sacred is the idea that there should be no restraints for anything. It is unjust that there be anything set beyond the reach of others. It is wrong that anyone is recognized as being more than someone else.

    Thus, in a society that has lost a notion of the sacred, no one stands out, no prizes are awarded, and disordered passions must never be held in check. Everyone must be equal, whatever the cost. There can be no sanctuary for any privileges. Nothing can be withheld from others. Rather, everything must be available to all.

    Depriving Things of Their Mystery
    Nothing is sacred anymore because things have been deprived of their mystery. To those who hate the sacred, the mere existence of mystery affirms an unknowable and superior truth that is not recognized by modern science.

    That is why modernity has always had a problem with the sacred. The Enlightenment introduced the idea that the sacred, with its aura of mystery, should be replaced by human reason and empirical observation.

    In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx observed the effects of this Enlightenment mentality when he wrote about capitalism’s tendency to destroy the sacred. “All that is sacred must be profaned,” he said. In a world where nothing is sacred, he believed life would and should be entirely de-sanctified. True to his militant atheism, Marx did not see this as a negative development but rather as something that would facilitate the condition of equality.

    The suppression of the sacred comes from a denial of spiritual values and ideas that elevate humanity and teach that there are things that are more precious than life itself. That fact alone makes those things sacred.

    The Desire to Be Ordinary
    There is nothing sacred anymore because sacred things impose respect. People are expected to see the sacred as special. People should admire, honor, and serve all that is sacred.

    It is a sacrifice that most today are unwilling to make. Instead, they want to be ordinary, and they want to surround themselves with the ordinary. To their minds, the comforts of being ordinary far outweigh the nobility of heroism. A sacred duty triggers no sympathetic resonance in the hearts of those that have opted for the unbridled pursuit of material happiness. An I-don’t-want-to-be-a-hero mentality prevails.

    Ironically, those who reject the sacred have no problem elevating their ordinariness to the status of something sacred. They are all too willing to turn profane pleasures into sacred entitlements. Thus, sports, entertainment, choices and consumption are considered sacred. Tragically, even some sins are made “sacred” and untouchable.

    However, as society decays, even these ordinary things turned sacred begin to come under attack. Even the mild exclusiveness that these ordinary pleasures entail proves intolerable to those who hate the sacred.

    Denial of the Kingship of Christ
    Of course, the most radical reason why nothing is sacred is because the present culture does not recognize that there should be things dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of God.

    This implicit denial of the kingship of Christ over humanity logically leads to the suppression of the sacred in daily life. As Pius XI states in his encyclical Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio (1922), things will be sacred again when Jesus Christ “reassumes His rightful place as King of all men, of all states, and of all nations.”

    Until then, Gen. Kelly’s lament will express the sentiments of those who grieve for the nation. Where God is not loved and adored, there can be no surprise that nothing else is sacred. When God and His Blessed Mother are blasphemed, as they are today, it should not be shocking that people mistreat others. Where God and his law are mocked and despised, it is only natural that morality too will be expelled from the public sphere and that society fall to unimaginable depths.

    Nothing will be safe. Nothing will be stable. Nothing will be sacred anymore.

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