You Won’t Remember My Name…
By Jack Mandaville
The TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference has rapidly become one of the most reputable and popular showcases of dialogue and ideas the world has ever seen, often highlighting the who’s who of our civilization’s intelligentsia. Past conferences have included a varied assortment of speakers such as former US President Bill Clinton, business magnate Bill Gates, renowned biologist Richard Dawkins, entertainers Sarah Silverman and Bono, and evangelist preacher Rick Warren.
Speaking at a TEDx—an independent TED event—held at Scott AFB in May of 2012, Air Force Major Jake Thornburg shared the details of a specific mission in his career that few individuals in America—and within the US Military, for that matter—have ever experienced.
What starts out as a slow introduction describing his job as C-17 pilot, quickly turns into a heartfelt narrative detailing his awakening to the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, particularly those who make the ultimate sacrifice. At one minute and twenty-seven seconds, he makes the first of many poignant statements in his ten minute speech: “And when I’m done, you won’t remember my name and you won’t remember my face.”
Thornburg proceeds to give a raw and earnest account of when he was tasked with flying the bodies of twenty Navy SEALS and Soldiers who lost their lives in the August, 2011 Chinook helicopter crash that claimed a total of thirty-one American Servicemen—the deadliest single incident in the decade-long war in Afghanistan. In this awe-inspiring personal tale, he covers the decisive moments and emotions he encountered along the way, including seeing the flag-draped caskets for the first time, the care he took to ensure a comfortable flight for both the living and lost, and witnessing the stoic removal of the caskets by the deceased’s’ brethren after the plane landed at Dover AFB. With every person he meets along the way, his story—whether he intended it that way or not—evolves into tender mix of environmental circumstance and private emotion.
As the video nears its end, Major Thornburg reiterates the above mentioned quote by adding, “I told you, when I’m done, you won’t remember my name and you won’t remember my face… but here’s the thing, you cannot forget theirs.”
What comes next is a solemn reminder of those who gave everything. Not numbers or political talking points, but extraordinary individuals from ordinary backgrounds. Every single one of them has a story. And every single one of them left behind people who loved them dearly.
I’m afraid I’m unable to give a synopsis of this video worthy of the speech itself, so I ask that you, the reader, take ten minutes out of your day to watch it. Prepare to be inspired… and never forget.