Thursday, November 11, 2010

Editorial: A Proud Veteran Speaks...

Every day, from the time I open my eyes until I close them at night, I am constantly aware of one thing that fills me with pride—I am a veteran. Like so many others, I made a conscious choice to raise my hand and swear an oath to protect and defend the United States of America.

While I am always reminded of this, November 11th is the one day we set aside to, as a nation, thank all of those who served. What started as an observance of the end of "The Great War," Armistice Day soon became Veterans Day, where we collectively step back, and say thank you.

It has been said that wherever there has been evil in the world, there will always be those to fight against it. From the Hindenburg Line, to the forests of Bastogne, Incheon, and the Ia Drang Valley, men stood up and did what was asked of them. And now, nearly 100 years since the beginning of WWI, our nation's men and women have been fighting in the streets of Baghdad, and the mountains of Afghanistan. I was in Baghdad in 2006, and more recently in Afghanistan, returning just this past August. It seems like an entire lifetime since I first joined the Army, yet at the same time, it feels just like yesterday.

After 9/11 I did my best to volunteer and help out in any way I could. To hear the names of those we lost and see the look on the faces of my family seemed almost unbearable. At that time I had no idea where my life would take me. My father told me the Army Rangers and Green Berets were going to get all the ones responsible for the attack. I started to settle back into normal life when our nation first went into Iraq. I remember at the time thinking, how are we going to fight on two fronts without more soldiers? I remember sitting on my couch at home, watching the bombs fall on Baghdad as if it were some movie; news correspondents giving initial reports next to the soldiers going street by street. I couldn't stomach the thought of sitting in the comfort of my house, watching other young men bear this incredible weight. It was then that I made the decision that would set me on a new path in life. I was going to sign up and do what my country needed to be done. If others are out there on the front lines sacrificing so much to protect all this country has given us, then why can't I?

Without telling my family, I went into Manhattan to the Times Square recruiting station, walked right up to the Army booth, and told the Sergeant "sign me up and send me over". I did so in secret because if my family had found out, they would have tied me up, or shackled me to a pipe—anything just to keep me safe. I understood how anxious they were; I'm the father of a two-year- old daughter, and the thought of her growing up and saying she wanted to go to war would prompt me to drive her to Canada or take her to live with my cousin in Ireland. But it all comes down to one thing—the same as so many others in years past—I did what needed to be done.

I spent months in some of the most rigorous training the military has to offer. I went through the intense process of shaping my mind and body from that of a civilian into a soldier. I learned how to tactically maneuver against enemy positions, collect intelligence and take the fight to those who brought war home to New York City. I have operated in two of the most dangerous environments ever, and I’ve put myself in harms way to protect my family, my city, and my country.

Through all the danger and uncertainty I always relied upon the one skill that has always made the difference in combat—the ability to adapt and overcome. In World War II members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion were tested with Point Du Hoc in Normandy, they climbed it. When groups of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Division got scattered throughout France the night leading up to D-Day, they banded together and took out key Nazi defenses by memorizing every inch of the drop zone in the weeks before. Even though they were separated from main units, they were never lost, and through their resolve and determination began turning the tide of the war in favor of the Allies. Many of these offensive tactics that were at the time done “on the fly” became standard procedure and are taught to today in military courses around the country.

Every step I took while I was overseas these men were with me. Sixty-five years after the end of World War II, when I meet these men, I don’t see a man in his 80’s, a part of the “Greatest Generation”. I see the 19-year-old kid who flew bombing missions over Germany. I see the young Marine who island-hopped through Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and so many others in the Pacific. These men are living testaments to the dedication and resolve of the American spirit. Even for my fellow brothers and sisters who never entered a combat zone also deserve the respect and admiration of the citizens they faithfully served.

To commit yourself to the service of the country, not only in a time of war, but also in peacetime takes an extraordinary amount of courage and fortitude. In between, during all the conflicts of the past century we have always had our men and women ready to go at a moments notice to defend our way of life. If anything else, all you need do is look around to see all the reasons why we stand strong.
Our country and our city serve as a beacon of light to the rest of the world. We are a diverse group from every corner of the globe, longing for freedom. A freedom maintained by generations of those willing to put themselves in harms way for the greater good.

I sincerely thank all of my fellow veterans who inspired me, guided me, and gave me the opportunity to take a stand in our country’s time of need. God Bless New York City, and God Bless the United States of America. Happy Veterans Day.

SGT Sean McCabe, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Sean McCabe is a lifelong resident of Ozone Park. He recently completed his final tour in Afghanistan. Sean is married to Melanie Castellano of Whitestone. The couple has one daughter, 2-year-old Kiera. Sean is preparing to take exams for the NYPD and the FDNY.

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