A good article to read today, Veteran's Day, is this speech from May of 2011 written up in The American Legion Magazine.
The speech is about heroism, the American character and the final six seconds in the lives of two young marines, Cpl Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter. It's delivered by Lt. General John Kelly who only four days before giving this speech lost one of his sons, a Marine, in Afghanistan.
After describing both Yale's and Haerter's background, Lt. General Kelly lays out the picture as the two Marines take up their posts:
They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry-control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.A few minutes later, a large blue truck turned down the alleyway – perhaps 60 to 70 yards in length – and sped its way through the serpentine concrete Jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest 200 yards away, knocking down most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was caused by 2,000 pounds of explosive. Because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers in arms.When I read the situation report a few hours after it happened, I called the regimental commander for details. Something about this struck me as different. We expect Marines, regardless of rank or MOS, to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.
Lt. Gen Kelly goes on to explain that the only witnesses to the event were Iraqis, Iraqis who ran away. One of them reported as follows: “Sir, in the name of God, no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. They saved us all.”
A film of the incident was later recovered showing Cpl. Yale and Lance Cpl. Haerter as they fired at the oncoming truck.
Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder-width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could. They had only one second left to live, and I think they knew.The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds.