Remember, Reflect, Respond

  • Published
  • By Ch., Lt. Col. Shon Neyland
  • 51st Fighter Wing Chaplain
For most of us, we have just completed a week-long peninsula-wide Operational Readiness Exercise. The familiar siren sounds of "Alarm Blue" and the call of "Exercise, Exercise, Exercise" are probably still ringing in our ears.

Exercises can be challenging and time consuming, but they serve a greater purpose. I believe that we are here to serve and to build upon the legacy of valor and carry on the tradition of honor of those who have gone on before us. We are here to stand alongside of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces as we protect this great nation and its people against tyranny from the North.

When we help deter the enemy in the North, we are also defending America, our families, and the world. We must always remember why we do what we do--freedom is not free! We cannot let the sacrifices of those who have gone on before go in vain--the battle continues.

As I was walking by the Osan Movie Theater the other night, I could not help but notice the four lights that shined brightly on the small memorial dedicated to the POWs/MIAs. In fact, I remember when we dedicated that area earlier in the year. The simple inscription on the monument says "Remember!"

We cannot forget those who have paved the way for the freedom for you and me to be here today. Remember, those who are missing, remember those who were prisoners of war and suffered the unspeakable horrors of war, and remember, those who gave their life that others might live.

We should not only "Remember," but we should take time to "Reflect" on what was done and what we do in defense of our nation. To reflect means to ponder, to meditate upon, and to consider.

Last week we celebrated Veteran's Day and it was a great four day weekend, but I submit that it was more than that. Veterans Day answers the question of why are we here. Take time to reflect on those who gave so much for us. Veteran's Day began as Armistice Day in 1918, as the armistice was signed between Germany and the Allied Forces on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th hour. The next year in 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be, "filled with solemn pride in heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory."

We certainly pay homage to those who have gone on before us. President Obama's Veteran's Day proclamation encourages us to reflect on those who gave all as he wrote, "I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate public ceremonies and private prayers...." Again, this proclamation reminds us to reflect on those who have served our nation valiantly from the Revolutionary War through every conflict, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reflect on what it means to be an American, reflect on what the flag stands for, reflect on the uniform we wear, reflect on the families and nation we protect, and reflect on the legacy and honor of serving alongside of Koreans fighting for peace and justice.

Most do not realize that almost one year after the armistice between North Korea and South Korea was signed (July 27, 1953), on June 1, 1954, Congress approved the change from the word "Armistice" to "Veteran" to honor all veterans from every conflict.

The last point I want to make is that not only should we "Remember and Reflect," but we need to Respond. How do we respond? Responsiveness is action or how we demonstrate our call to serve our nation selflessly. I encourage you to take pride in all we do for the defense of freedom and democracy.

In my earlier days as a Missileer, we were on alert for 24hrs a day/7 days a week and we proudly wore a badge that read, "Combat Ready!" As members of the Armed Forces , we are always combat ready and on alert to carry out the mission to defend, execute, and receive follow-on forces.

We serve with excellence and distinction in all we do, but we don't just do it, we understand why we do it. Respond to that higher calling that is found in each military member, whether enlisted or officer. Ask yourself, do my actions bring honor to those who have gone on before us? Does my level of commitment and integrity reflect the valor of those who served and sacrificed before me?

I remember the challenge of Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Remington, 7th Air Force Commander, as he spoke at the Airmen Leadership School graduation, where he told the staff sergeant graduates, "I expect each of you to lead--you are a leader!" Those are powerful words, because it calls us to respond, no matter what our rank. It calls us to respond with the highest honor and service.

Make a conscientious effort to carry on this great mission for America, Korea, and the ultimately the world with excellence as we Remember, Reflect, and Respond.