I was a soldier in Iraq when the First Battle of Fallujah broke out.
So many of my fellow soldiers marched into that city and never marched out. Today is the day that we sit with that. Today is the day we remember all a soldier leaves behind when they die.
They won’t be at our BBQs today. They won’t be with their families today.
Today is a day for remembering that loss.
For many soldiers, Fallujah was that place.
The U.S. military called it some of the heaviest urban combat our troops have seen since Vietnam.
But that’s what soldiers do, they show up. In the face of terror, in the face of fear. Even in the face of death.
When we aren’t given anything more than a single direct order, soldiers show up. When we don’t know what the whole mission is, what the next order we will be, or when we will get to go home, we commit to showing up.
We may have different reasons, different motivations for doing so—but when asked, we show up.
That’s what I honor today. I honor my fellow soldiers who showed up and left their lives in Fallujah and on a thousand other battlefields.
I will honor them by continuing to show up. I will show up and see the Fallujah that exists beneath the fog of war and hail of bullets. I will show up and choose to see places like Fallujah not as an enemy, not just as a “military objective,” but as a place that matters, whose people matter. A place we can stand with, connect with. A place we can rebuild. A place we can still make a difference today.
I am honoring my battle buddies by wearing—and living—the label "peacemaker," in and out of my uniform. The fight for what is good may look very different when the uniform comes off, but it’s still the same fight that I want to be part of.
Today, Fallujah is at war again. At this moment, U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces are engaged in a fierce battle to liberate the city from ISIS. But peace depends on more than a military victory; the outcome depends on how we respond to the people of Fallujah. We're on our way to front lines right now, with lifesaving aid for families who've been oppressed by ISIS for more than two years. Learn more.