Retired Marine: 'America and the world are in good hands'
As thousands gathered in communities across the nation on Monday to pay tribute to those who have been killed while serving their country, retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Sean Mulcahy reminded a crowd in Fort Mill, South Carolina, that there’s no greater love than to die for your friend.
“For three centuries, brave men and women of these United States of America who wear the uniform of its military have been demonstrating this greatest love,” he said.
Mulcahy retired from the Marines in 2008 after 30 years of service. On Monday, he was the guest speaker at Fort Mill’s annual Memorial Day ceremony, held at Veterans Park.
Now working daily with teenagers and young adults as the senior Marine instructor for Nation Ford High School’s JROTC program, Mulcahy said some people question whether today’s generation “has what it takes to do what past generations have in order to preserve the freedom and liberty of our citizens.”
The “reality of war hasn’t changed,” he said, but society has. Today’s generation “grew up with X-Box, cell phones, PlayStations and the personal computer.”
People wonder, Mulcahy said, if this generation has “the honor, courage and commitment to demonstrate that greatest love, to make the ultimate sacrifice.”
In his view, he said, “America and the world are in good hands.”
A story he shared about two young Marines who “who died with rifles blazing” in Iraq in 2008 demonstrates today’s generation’s ability to serve, he said.
Mulcahy told the story of Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter of New York and Cpl. Jonathan T. Yale of Virginia. Barely in their twenties, the young Marines were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest honor they could have received.
He recounted the story, written by Marine Corp Gen. John Kelly, called “The Last Six Seconds.” Haerter and Yale were heroes, saving almost 150 people in Ramadi, Iraq, on April 22, 2008.
They were standing watch at Joint Security Station Nasser when a suicide bomber drove a large truck –– packing at least 2,000 pounds of explosives –– through concrete walls, attempting to kill American soldiers and Iraqi police officers.
Instead of running, Haerter and Yale stood their ground, Mulcahy said, “because these two young infantrymen didn't have it in their DNA to run from danger.”
As the truck barreled toward them, they had about six seconds left to live, he said.
Yet, “they never stepped back, they never even started to step back,” Mulcahy said, reading Kelly’s story. “They leaned into danger. Firing as fast as they could work their weapons.”
They gunfire shattered the truck’s window and they killed the driver.
Haerter and Yale were killed when the driver of the truck detonated his bombs. The explosion was so powerful, Mulcahy said, that the vehicle’s engine landed 200 yards away, and a mosque almost 100 yards away collapsed.
A witness told Kelly later, “In the name of God, no sane man would have stood there and did what they did ... they saved us all.”
Fort Mill’s Memorial Day ceremony on Monday was founded to honor military personnel like Haerter and Yale. Many families in the town and in York County know the grief of losing a friend or family member to war.
One of those local families is Diane Massey’s.
Her son Joshua Blaney died in 2007 at age 25 when a roadside bomb exploded, killing him inside the Humvee he was a passenger in. Blaney was based at Forward Operating Base Curry in Afghanistan.
On Monday morning, Massey thanked the crowd for attending the Memorial Day service to honor the nation’s fallen and her son.
Fort Mill’s American Legion Post 43 participated in the service and organizers paid tribute to women such as Massey who have lost a son or daughter while serving in the military. The women are known as Gold Star Mothers.
After the service, William Tolliver of Charlotte said Mulcahy’s and others’ remarks were “outstanding.” Tolliver said he frequently attends Fort Mill’s military events at Veterans Park.
A retired Marine, Tolliver was based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He served for five years in the infantry and in the military police. He has two adult sons who have served in the Navy and Air Force.
He is drawn to events such as Monday’s Fort Mill Memorial Day service, Tolliver said, because he enjoys hearing the stories of older veterans.
“They went through a lot more than I did,” he said.
At least five retired officers from the South Vietnam Army also attended Monday’s ceremony. They were honored on Monday as allies with American servicemen during the Vietnam War.