Opinions and Speeches

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Marietta Daily Journal: For America, they gave their all

As published in the Marietta Daily Journal

Memorial Day is a quintessential American holiday. We wear our red, white and blue. We take time to enjoy our friends and family at cookouts and mark the beginning of summer. We take joy in the freedom that our democracy brings.

But for many Americans, Memorial Day is more somber and very personal, and it can be a difficult day, too. It includes visits to our national cemeteries or battlefield monuments. It is a day of reflection, of memories and often a reminder of loss.

Many Americans have experienced the loss of a family member, a friend, a brother or sister in arms who died serving our country. Yet, our service men and women know the risks when they join our armed forces — that they may not return. Yet they still enlist, they still commission.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Memorial Day is personal for me, and it reminds me of the costs of freedom. I am reminded of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country; and I remember the families who have experienced this deep loss.

Many years ago while I was a student at the University of Georgia, my good friend, Jackson Elliott Cox of Waynesboro, informed a small group of our friends one night that he had volunteered for officer’s candidate school in the United States Marine Corps. Vietnam was our generation’s war, and Jack wanted to serve the country he loved. Within weeks of receiving his commission, during his junior year at UGA, Jack received his orders for Vietnam, and he soon left. He earned an officer’s rank and served with honor.

Another Georgian who is special to me named Noah Harris of Ellijay, was a junior at the University of Georgia when he joined the ROTC after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His resolve allowed him to serve honorably as an officer in the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Noah was a cheerleader at UGA, and he brought that kind of joy and optimism to his fellow soldiers. He showed his big heart to Iraqi children, bringing them Beanie Babies and showing them kindness and generosity. He wrote to me during his tour, sharing his pride in his mission, and we became pen pals.

And last month, I came to know of First Lieutenant Weston Lee of Blakeley, who at 25, was a member of the storied 82nd Airborne Division and a graduate from the University of North Georgia.

These brave and selfless young men are representative of the best of America. They gave their best, and ultimately, they gave their all.

Jack Cox was killed by a sniper during the 12th month of his 13-month tour. Noah Harris was hit by an improvised explosive device, or IED, six months into his tour. Weston Lee was tragically killed by a land mine on April 29, 2017, in Mosul, Iraq. Their parents were so proud of their beloved children, and mourned them.

On this Memorial Day, as I so often do throughout the year, I’ll remember Jack, Noah and Weston. I’ll thank God for them and for all the service members they represent who have sacrificed and died for the freedom and liberty that you and I enjoy.

On this Memorial Day, and every day, may God bless the United States of America.

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U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.