Once upon a midnight dreary, Osama pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While he plotted, clearly scheming, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some SEAL gently rapping, rapping at his chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” he muttered, “tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.”
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled him – filled him with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of his heart, he stood repeating,
“‘Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
Some Paki Minister entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
This it is, and nothing more.”
Presently his soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Infidel,” said he, “or kafir, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was plotting, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”- here he opened wide the door; –
Darkness there, and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long he stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “helicopter?”
This he whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “helicopter!” –
Merely this, and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, his black soul within him burning,
Soon again he heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said he, “surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the wind and nothing more.”
Open here he flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately SEAL of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, bursted through his chamber door –
Looking down his rifle’s gun sights just beyond the chamber door –
Locked, and loaded, nothing more.
“Prophet!” said Osama, “thing of evil! – prophet still, if SEAL or devil! –
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
On this home by horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there balm in Abottabad? – tell me – tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the triggerman “Nevermore.”
Osama bin Laden is no more. In one important sense our national nightmare is over. Finally there is some closure for the families of the thousands that died that terrible day in September of 2001. Like most Americans I take what happened on 9/11 personally. My son, Joshua, had just enlisted in the United States Army. He was part of the first class that graduated from Army boot camp at Fort Jackson after the national tragedy that started America down the road of the War on Terrorism.
I travelled from Florida to Fort Jackson for Joshua’s graduation ceremony. It was a chilly day and I was bundled up against the cold that morning. But my heart warmed as a thousand new Army recruits passed in review and the base commander addressed us all. He told us of the admiration he had for all of the recruits who were graduating that day. An all-volunteer force now, the Army gains its new blood from those who feel the burning pride of patriotism. And America’s best, its youth and its future, were placing all that they had on the line so that we all could live in freedom. There was an upsurge in military enlistments post 9/11. The country came together in defense of freedom. It was an era for the ages. That feeling of national unity had never before been experienced by many Americans. And for those who had experienced that feeling it had been a long time – perhaps as far back as the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Following the graduation ceremony Joshua was released to us with the provision that he was to remain on base until he boarded the bus which would take him to Fort Eustis for advanced training. So for the next two days we toured the base. We went to the enlisted men’s club. We visited the base museum. We saw it all. And then Joshua boarded the bus and headed to Fort Eustis in Virginia where he was to be trained as a helicopter power plant mechanic.
The next time we saw Joshua was at a Holiday Inn near the airport in Jacksonville, FL. The Army had that entire hotel rented out. Joshua was now a member of the 101st Airborne Division and the Screaming Eagles were being deployed to Kuwait (though we didn’t know exactly where at the time due to security concerns). Joshua’s unit had spent the past week wrapping all of their helicopters in plastic wrap to protect them from the salty ocean spray. All of the helicopters were being loaded onto cargo ships for the slow transit to the Arabian Gulf. We hugged Joshua and said our goodbyes – not knowing when we would see him again.
A few months later Joshua crossed into Iraq as far of the invasion force. His unit made its way up to Mosul in the northern part of Iraq and there Joshua stayed for the next year. We learned bits and pieces of Joshua’s war experiences – like the time he went out to retrieve a downed helicopter and his unit came under enemy attack. Joshua saw one of his friends blown to bits that day – nothing left but blood. That is what it is like defending America. Every day isn’t a victory. Friends die. Comrades in arms are sent home in either body bags or via flying hospitals. Ezra Taft Benson, who served as Secretary of Agriculture in the Eisenhower Administration, once said that when freedom is lost it is only regained through the shedding of blood. Truer words were never spoken.
Joshua eventually returned stateside but was later sent back to Iraq for another tour of duty. This time he was assigned to Bagram Air Force Base north of Baghdad. It was more of the same. Blood. Sweat. Tears. And a steady diet of combat patrols. Joshua was assigned to carry his squad’s M249 light machine gun. It was previously known in the Army by the name of Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW. A fully loaded M249 weighs in at 22 pounds. Imagine lugging the weapon on patrol day after day. No wonder Joshua returned home with arms the size of small logs.
Joshua is out of the Army now. He didn’t re-enlist. But with two tours of duty in Iraq he has more than carried his share of the load in defending freedom. I salute him and every other man and woman who wears the uniform of a United States soldier, sailor, airman, or marine. Joshua’s unit spent countless hours and days hunting for Saddam Hussein. He knows the frustration of coming up empty on patrol after patrol. Seeing Seal Team 6 successfully corner Osama Bin Laden means something to him, and to me.
America didn’t ask for the War on Terrorism. In fact, America absorbed blow after blow without a significant level of response. America slept through the bombing of our Marines in Beirut. America slept through the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. America slept through the atrocities in Somalia. And then America woke up. 9/11 penetrated our hearts and our minds. Never again would America take it on the chin without seeking out those responsible for such wanton murder. President George W. Bush promised to seek out those who were responsible for attacking the Pentagon and the World Trade Center and bring them to justice. Bush put into place the intelligence infrastructure that Barack Obama benefitted from years later. Regardless, killing bin Laden finally cut off the head of the snake that attacked us in 2001. The war rolls on but at least justice has been served to the evil mastermind that murdered thousands of innocent American lives.
Joshua, your honorable service in defense of our country is magnificent. I salute you, my son! I salute all the heroes who have sacrificed their blood for freedom. I salute all of our American heroes who give their all in defense of our freedom and our liberty. It is a dangerous world and there will always be new bin Ladens seeking to enslave us. But there will also always be Joshuas and countless others who will rise to the occasion when liberty is threatened and who will save us in our hour of need.
Lady Liberty continues to lift her lamp in New York harbor, giving hope to the oppressed and symbolizing freedom and liberty to all men everywhere. It is with thanks to the American military that we acknowledge the death of Osama bin Laden. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. Though bin Laden’s crimes are great and his evil designs monumental in their scope – the American dream refuses to die. Lady Liberty shines like a golden city on a hill. Her light will not be dimmed and America will always be free.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
– Emma Lazarus