|From Andrew 12/08/05:
This is the part of the job I had hoped I would never experience; saying goodbye to an outstanding soldier who has fallen. In preparing my remarks, I was gripped by a lot of emotions. Shock, that a soldier could be taken from us so quickly. Sadness, to his family, friends, and platoon members. Anger, because when a situation feels out of control, rage is the one we usually turn to. Most of all Pride, because SPC McConnell served his country well. He always followed orders and never questioned the mission. I think the thing I heard most from SPC McConnell was "Roger, SGT".
To SPC McConnell's family, his friends, and his unit-I would like to say Thank you. Thank you for serving. Thank you for serving your nation and your countrymen. Thank you for serving the soldiers of Coldsteel.
Last week I read a statistic which caught my attention. It said that 95% of Americans under the age of 65 have never served in the Armed Forces, in any capacity...95%. That makes SPC McConnell pretty unique in my book. That fact, makes all of you unique. SPC McConnell served and you serve so the country can sleep--safely, peacefully, and without fear. The kids in the States can go to school and know there will be a teacher to teach them, and a desk to sit at. The citizens of the United States can go to the market without worry of being kidnapped. They can travel across the country without fear of being abducted due to their ethnicity. All of you have seen the atrocities of Iraq first hand; I don't need to preach to you about that. It is through the dedication and perseverance of soldiers like SPC McConnell that make our country great, and the country of Iraq a better place. Thank you SPC McConnell.
The military is a family. In this environment, it's the only family we have. It has been discussed for centuries, "Why do soldiers fight". Is it honor? Is it loyalty? Is it fame? Is it money? I would say it is a combination of all these things, but ultimately, when rounds are going down range, a soldier fights for his buddy in the foxhole next to him; at that moment all of those other things are not something he can touch. The only tangible thing at that time, is his buddy to his left and right. On that tragic morning of 16NOV04, SPC McConnell was surrounded by his buddies to his left and his right. Unfortunately, his injuries were just too great to reverse. He passed away with his comrades by his side. The soldiers of this company applied every ounce of energy to recover 6 x personnel from the vehicle that night. It was a combined effort that validates why this country has the finest soldiers in the world. SPC McConnell, you will be missed terribly; and you will never be forgotten.
I would like to leave all of you with a quote from an unknown author. It captures the sacrifice and the unselfishness in the calling of the American soldier. It attempts to answer the question of "Why we serve" and "Is it worth it".
"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, who wears the flag with honor on his right shoulder, and ultimately; whose coffin is draped by the flag.
It is even the soldier who allows the protester the right to burn the flag.
It is the soldier. It has always been the soldier."
Once again, thank you Specialist Daniel J. McConnell. Thank you for serving. Thank you for choosing to be a soldier. We will surely miss you.