Are We Honoring the Fallen?

Updated: December 21, 2013


By RU Rob

Over the last couple of years I have matured in ways I never imagined possible. As I get older I am less sensitive to things that, as a younger man, would have set me off in an instant. Celebrity deaths are one of those things.

Two or three years ago when a celebrity died and the world went crazy in mourning I would have been hootin’ and hollerin’ to not forget our troops and provide specific names of fallen warriors who had recently entered the Halls of Valhalla. But is that realistic? Is the majority of the American public expected to know that LCpl Matthew Rodriguez of Fairhaven, Massachusetts died on December 11, 2013?

This became clear to me in a discussion the other day with other Rhino Den writers in our forum. One of our writers posted a recently popular meme that has been making its way through Facebook that I will not post here out of respect. The meme stated, “This is not some beautiful Hollywood actor, he didn’t drive fast cars, walk a red carpet or date some useless starlet. This is a Marine” and it goes on show a picture of the Marine and the date that he passed. The comments that several of the writers left are what spurred these thoughts. They don’t know that I am posting this so I will leave them anonymous.

Writer #1 “What do you guys think of memes like this? I’m probably guilty of posting them in the past, but I’ve begun to think we should be above complaining that the civilians pay more attention to dead celebrities than soldiers. I signed up to serve, not get headlines. Honor the fallen, of course. But they’re ours to honor, I don’t expect civilians to do anything but lead their lives. Am I off-base here?

Writer #2 “I agree. You can’t expect 100 million people to mourn a guy they never knew existed. It’s dumb.

Writer #3 “Yeah, these are crap. Another form of FB attention whoring: ‘Look at how righteous I am and how fucktarded the rest of America is!’ Yeah, no shit, nobody outside his unit and family know who LCpl Schmuckatelli is. Big surprise.”

Writer #4 “Agree. America is put in touch with the character of an actor in various movies and TV shows. Then they are further immersed in celebrity fanaticism by the constant, unending gossip. They rarely get such a connection with a service member. We are more closely associated with a yellow magnetic ribbon and the phrase ‘care package’. When we are associated with more…it goes right back to Hollywood and war movies. Nature of the beast I guess. I equate it to the shit bag that always gets out of working while the reliable ones work late. Nobody questions it as long as everything seems to be getting done.”

Writer #5 “Ok, good. I’m glad I am not the only one who thinks that way…”

Writer #6 “I’m probably more vitriolic about entertainer-worshipping than anyone and I’m at the point where I just accept it. It’s an entertainer’s job to make an emotional connection with the audience and a Soldier’s job to anonymously protect that audience. It’ll never be just or merciful, but it’s America.”

arlingtonchristmas2Think about that for a minute. What you just read came from the mouths of some of the most military supportive, patriotic, hard-charging, pipe hitting warriors I have ever met. It wasn’t until I had read them in their entirety that I realized I agreed with them but at the same time wondered…

Are we doing our fallen a disservice by complaining the general public doesn’t know them?

As Veterans, we know the hardships and will never forget our brothers and sisters who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Let’s face it, the American public stopped their general concern for our fallen right about the same time the news cycle shifted from the wars back to the cyclic rotation of who’s who in Hollywood that was arrested again for drugs, DUI, wife-beating, etcetera.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that every one of our warriors deserve nothing but the greatest honors and accolades, but at the same time it has also been brought to my attention by a mentor of mine that “There are some people you can train, teach, and buy books for, but all they’ll do is eat the covers.”

Maybe it is time that we stop thumping our chest while screaming at the world to look at us and go back to focusing on honoring the fallen as only we know how.  Because there are some that will never quite understand the way we do.




  1. Sig

    December 21, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I don’t get upset that people are oblivious to the individual sacrifices. After all, I’m not fully spun up on the life stories of every one of the fallen; why should I expect others to be? I DO get a little annoyed when people don’t seem to realize that these sacrifices are happening at all.

  2. Nathan Kraft

    December 21, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    My quick backstory: I joined the Army July 29, 2009. I joined 18X. I wanted to serve. To fight for my country and my beliefs. After an unfortunate series of events during week seven I became ill. It eventually led to a discharge for ‘failure to meet medical/procurement standards’. I was discharged under “Uncharacterized/Medical” title December 3, 2009. It took me a long time to come to terms with watching my company march off to ‘Turning Blue’ while I waited for my ride to the outprocessing unit. I still consider myself a veteran, and yet still hate to do it. I tried to serve. I share a mentality with those the have and do. My dad is a veteran that did ten years. Patriotism runs deep in all of us. Those that serve. In my current career path as a firefighter I see the similar reaction when there is a firefighter LODD. The general public; those that have never served, and don’t want to- they may not understand. Many try, but the concept is a foreign reality to them. Most are thankful, but they still won’t understand. They can’t comprehend what those of you that saw what I know you saw in Iraq/Afghanistan, Africa, Bosnia, Kuwait. The list goes on. If you’re reading this you may have the urge to tell me “you don’t know either asshole, you weren’t there”. No I wasn’t. I wanted to be. And while I don’t ‘understand’, and would never be so arrogant as to say I do, I can comprehend it. And that is where most of the public is separate. The cannot comprehend. And that’s so far from understanding that it seems foreign to them. We must always remember our fallen. We must always remember that the best counselor any of our Vets will ever have is that man that saw the same things and was able to deal with it. Nobody asked any to serve. It’s a personal conviction. And never forget those that are still overseas and at home serving. And while meme war Friday still entertains me, I pray that none of you (and myself) ever forget that we have to support all that serve, because every fallen brother and sister can only truly be honored by us. The public can remember, and support, but the honor bestowed to the fallen lies among our family. Don’t let it bother you that many people will never know who 1st LT Jacob Fritz, and how he Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, and Pvt. Johnathon M. Millican were kidnapped and killed in Iraq. Few know that Jacob’s brother Cpt. Dan Fritz is a proud Army Ranger that continues to faithfully serve, and their youngest brother is currently following his brothers as a West Point cadet. I do. And those that know Dan do. Those that knew Jake do. WE know our own. And we honor our own. That is our responsibility. And it always will be. So, to my brothers from A 2/58, to my brothers and sisters still in uniform, we love you, and we will always support and honor you. We will give the highest honor to those that give the ultimate sacrifice. WE WILL HOLD THEIR MEMORY ALWAYS.

    “Walk through hell so others may never have to confront evil.”

  3. Daniel Gorman

    December 21, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    I’ll be the first to admit that I had the typical knee jerk, self-righteously indignant reaction following the flood of media attention when Paul Walker died. After mulling it over, though, I realized a life is still a life and to recognize his family’s loss didn’t diminish in the least the respect and honor I have for our fallen brothers and sisters. Someone in Hollywood dying doesn’t automatically mean my friends’ deaths are somehow negated. Sure, the guy was “just an actor,” but it’s important to remember that he didn’t sign up to be killed at a fundraising event in California, either. I’m sure none of us joined the military with the express intent of being killed for our country, but we recognize the fact that dragging ass, weapons and gear up and down the streets of Baghdad or the mountains of Afghanistan could end in a quick and inglorious end with little fanfare. Tragic, absolutely, but an occupational hazard nonetheless. Does the majority of the nation truly understand that on an emotional level, though? Probably not, or they do so only superficially after the fact. My belief is that we as a country don’t want to acknowledge that sacrifice on a visceral level because it reminds us of a complex and controversial chapter of our history, still currently being written. Mourning an entertainer’s death is safer and neater for our social conscience, to put it simply. It’s also important to note that just because someone’s famous doesn’t mean they haven’t served or sacrificed in their life. I hadn’t realized until after all the news broke that Paul Walker puts boots on the ground with his own NGO in some pretty miserable places. James Gandolfini had done a lot for and with wounded veterans. Those that throw up the memes and whatnot about how mourning the death of someone non-military is unpatriotic and disrespectful don’t really have a firm grasp on what patriotism and respect actually mean, in my humble opinion.

  4. Gordon Cucullu

    December 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Rob, this is a long-festering issue with a lot of us. I think the public disengagement with our military began at least with Vietnam. Soldiers are no longer considered American heroes. When I was a kid everyone knew who Audie Murphy and Alvin York were. Films were made about them. Who in the public today would recognize Bob Howard (MOH, DSC, SS, 8 Purple Hearts), or even Dakota Meyer or more recent Medal of Honor winners? Few, if anyone.
    Here at Valhalla Project we’re taking quiet steps on our own to recognize fallen warriors. Veterans who come here are offered the opportunity to nominate fallen buddies to name many of the features on the property. Our first such was a pond named after SP4 Jonathan Kephardt, KIA in Iraq in 2005.
    Such memorials will garner no public attention, nor will they influence the larger civilian community. Nevertheless, it seems entirely appropriate and fitting that they be remembered here at Valhalla, where warriors gather in work, relaxation, and camaraderie.
    De oppressor liber

  5. leftoftheboom

    December 21, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Here is my problem. We lose our benefits because Congress cuts them. We are returning to the idea that “Soldiers and Dogs keep off the grass” mentality.

    School children do not have Veteran’s Day off but they are off for Martin Luther King Day. I am mixed about this because, at least the schools in my area, take the time to have a Veteran’s Day presentation and all local Veterans are invited. This means that while the day is not granted off, the students still celebrate Veterans and actually get to meet some. Hell I met a WWII Navy AA gunner that served on a destroyer off Okinawa. But I digress.

    We can morn and remember our losses all day long and we will continue to slide back into obscurity. Why? The public is fickle. We may never get their attention unless we stick it in their face.

    I would like to see a campaign where a nice photo of everyone fallen, is made into a poster and used in military recruiting commercials. Every banner that we make has the face of someone who we lost. I would like to see playing card selections that are available like the Tops Baseball Cards. Medal of Honor Recipients, The Fallen, Battles, Maps, and everything we have done.

    Will it cheapen us? We need to take the risk. Because once the public actually understands us, maybe even likes us, we might not have to fight so hard to keep the benefits we have. Here is my bottom line. We can be noble and silent, or we can attack with an ad campaign that might get some notice.

    For the record, when some actor dies, I listen to my co-workers, and when I hear sniffles or see tears falling, I ask them why they are crying for a stranger who had no input into their lives beyond a brief moment of entertainment. After they answer, I ask them if they enjoy being that shallow.

  6. Murphy

    December 31, 2013 at 5:59 am

    I stop reading the site (mostly) while I am taking upper division classes; I come back, and the first article I read…. Is exactly the article I needed to read right now.
    I have unleashed some pretty rough shit on people for not “getting it” when it comes to the death of fellow soldiers versus the deaths of celebs, and it really is (for me) just exactly what is articulated by Writer #4 above.

    I don’t agree with the baseball card idea, sorry. I can see where you’re coming from, but… naah.
    I am honestly content to stay “Thomas Adkins” if you know what I mean.

    • leftoftheboom

      December 31, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      You can bet that Tommy Sees!

      I know it is an oddball idea but we need to start somewhere somehow. We have got to do better to get recognition or we remain faceless. And it is very easiy to ignore a faceless person.

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