Sunday, November 25, 2007
An Increased Devotion
Johnny Micheal Spann (USMC - CIA)
Toward the end of each November, I take a walk through the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. There you will find the last resting place of thousands of men and women who gave what Abraham Lincoln famously referred to as “the last full measure of devotion”. The plain white headstones unique to military cemeteries are the great equalizers of those who serve. Admirals are buried next to Petty Officers, Generals next to Privates – none more revered than the other.
My annual journey takes me to Section 34 Site 2359. There lies entombed the remains of Johnny Micheal Spann. Mike, as he preferred to be called, has a distinction nobody would every wish for – he was the first combat casualty suffered by the United States in the Afghanistan War – a war which would become the Global War on Terror.
Mike held the rank of Captain in the United States Marine Corps, but it was not his Marine service which sent him to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. He had left the Corps and signed on as an Operations Officer at the Central Intelligence Agency. In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, he volunteered for duty as a part of the paramilitary team searching for Osama bin Laden. On November 25, 2001 – while most of America was winding down from the Thanksgiving weekend - he was killed in a prison uprising at Mazar-i-Sharif. Mike’s whole story can be read here.
Mike heard the call of his country and answered it with all the gusto anyone could ever ask for. He obviously believed in the importance of his mission – knowing full well it could cost him his life. He knew the risks and went anyway.
When Abraham Lincoln looked over the carnage of Gettysburg, he declared:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.I submit, dear reader, that the work started by men like Mike Spann is yet unfinished. He gave the last full measure of devotion on a battlefield far removed from the hallowed ground of Arlington. I make my annual pilgrimage to his grave to remind myself of a man I never had the privilege of knowing.
The American memory is a short one and always has been. This is good in some ways in that – as a country – we are able to continue on with life rather than dwelling in the past. The flipside of that coin is that – as a country – we tend to forget what people like Mike Spann have done for us.
That is why I try and take an increased devotion to the cause for which Mike gave the last full measure.
Take a minute today to read about Mike Spann. A scholarship has been set up in his honor at Auburn University.
I’ve tried to think of some phrase with which to end this post, but I can find no better ending than a quote from the man himself. When applying to the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike wrote the following:
I believe in the meaning of honor and integrity. I am an action person who feels personally responsible for making any changes in this world that are in my power...because if I don't, no one else will.Here endeth the lesson.