Watch This General's Emotional Speech About the Cost of War - Task & Purpose

Stop what you're doing and watch this Army general's emotional speech about the cost of war

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Over the weekend, Fort Benning's new commander provided a heartrending reminder of the cost of the Global War on Terror as it stretches into its nineteenth year.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe was speaking on Saturday at the National Infantry Museum's rededication ceremony for the Global War on Terrorism Memorial, which includes stone panels where the names of every U.S. single service member who has lost their life during the GWOT are engraved.

More than 350 Gold Star family members were in attendance at the ceremony on Saturday. Addressing them, Donahoe said that "our nation's thanks may never be enough." 

"You are the mothers, the fathers, the sons, the daughters, the sisters, the brothers, the aunts, the uncles, cousins, and friends who absorbed the true cost of the civilized world’s fight against barbarism."

He then spoke to the veterans who find their friends' names engraved on that those stones. Donahoe, after all, knows that feeling all too well: 

“I know the feeling of the anguish when you come upon those names. Some clumped together in the chronology of their loss from events far from here, but close in our memory. I can see the names of the 17 of my battalion lost in combat along the Euphrates in 2005-[2006]. I see their faces in the marble, and I see the flame and the twisted metal. And I wonder if it was worth it.

But to do so, to measure the men against the mission, is an evil calculus. We were given our mission, we put our shoulder to the task, we took the fight to the enemy. We fought the righteous fight, and some of us will remain forever young. And it breaks my heart.” 

When asked by Task & Purpose what he hoped others took away from his remarks, Donahoe said that leading the nation's sons and daughters in combat "is a sacred trust." 

"For those we've led and failed to bring home, it is our duty to keep their memories alive," Donahoe said. "Losing soldiers in combat was the hardest thing I've ever been through. Talking to their families is humbling and heartbreaking but often it is in those discussions that we find the strength of the Army family."  

Read Donahoe's full remarks below:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. As many of you know, it’s very customary in military ceremonies to go through a series of introductions of distinguished guests, but I’m not going to do that this morning. Humbling to see the number of our Gold Star families stand when asked — you truly are the distinguished guests today. Thank you for coming out for this important event.

Today marks 19 years and one day since the 9/11 attacks occurred and would bring about the Global War on Terror; 6,941 days, and nearly the same number of Americans lost in this great cause. One American — actually more than one American — lost for each day of these last 19 years. The incredibly sacrifice is palpable in those numbers, but more-so in their names engraved on the marble tablet across this field. We have over 350 Gold Star family members here today, representing more than 100 service members who gave, in the words of President Lincoln, “the last full measure of devotion.” But you also represent the tens of thousands of lives that have been forever changed by your loved ones’ sacrifice on the field of battle. You are the mothers, the fathers, the sons, the daughters, the sisters, the brothers, the aunts, the uncles, cousins, and friends who absorbed the true cost of the civilized world’s fight against barbarism. Whether soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, or coast guardsmen, they volunteered, and you stood to support them. Our nation’s thanks may never be enough, but it is my fervent hope that it fills in some small way the void of their loss.

Today, we remember as we rededicate the Global War on Terrorism memorial, we rededicate it because over the past year, 40 names have been added to the stones, which reminds us that we are still a nation at war. It is a war now that is being fought by young men and women who were not even alive during the tempest of that day 19 years ago. For those of you joining us for the first time this year, I truly hope that you’ve been able to connect with others in the Gold Star community. It is my hope this memorial can be your rallying point, a place you can visit that will always stand in remembrance of your loved one’s service and sacrifice, a place that may be able to lighten the burden of your loss even if it’s only for a short moment.

For our veterans, who search on those markers for the names of their friends, their fellow soldiers: I know the feeling of the anguish when you come upon those names. Some clumped together in the chronology of their loss from events far from here, but close in our memory. I can see the names of the 17 of my battalion lost in combat along the Euphrates in 2005-[2006]. I see their faces in the marble, and I see the flame and the twisted metal. And I wonder if it was worth it. But to do so, to measure the men against the mission, is an evil calculus. We were given our mission, we put our shoulder to the task, we took the fight to the enemy. We fought the righteous fight and some of us will remain forever young. And it breaks my heart.

As the COVID-19 pandemic passes, this museum campus will reopen to the public and draw crowds as it has in the past. As they pass through this memorial they will see the names of those given to our nation, who preserved this nation. They will see the names of those who gave their life for our freedom. They will see your loved one’s name, and for a brief moment, live with you in their loss. I hope you will also return in future years to tell your story, and to be there for any families who may follow. As hard and unfortunate as that may be to consider, this war continues, and we will most likely continue to add names to this monument.

Let these hallowed grounds always be a home for you, where you can feel the love of our Gold Star community, and the endless gratitude of our nation. Thank you all for joining us today, may God bless you, may God continue to bless the United States of America."