I have been called a murderer. They have said my hands are stained with the blood of innocents, that my soul is shaddowed by lives that were not mine to take.
I have been called a tool of tyrants. They have said i am a sword in the hands of evil men, that i am mindless, a machine simply following orders.
I have been called a traitor to peace. They have said i find pleasure in terror, that i revel in violence and the pain it may cause.
I have been protested in the streets where i live, where i grew up. Friends i have had since childhood have turned their backs on me.
They have attacked me where i stood, tried to humiliate me where i live. I have seen them belittle the deaths of my comrades. I have seen them harrass the families of my friends. I have seen them throw our achievements to the wind and paint our words with tints of hatred and despair.
I have been tormented, hurt, mistreated, and abused.
I have cried, fought, cursed, and fallen.
And i have persevered.
I am soldier, a marine, an airman, a sailor. I am part of a proud tradition that stretches back through the generations.
If i am a murderer so be it. I admit, i have taken lives directly or indirectly. I ended lives with the gun i carry or a missle launched from sea. And i have wept. I carry each death on my heart as a wound, raw and bleeding. And i would do it again. To defend my country, i will plead guilty to that accusation. To honor my flag, i would face the world. To protect my family, i would stand against all the legions of hell.
I am no tool of tyrants. I am not mindless, not a machine. I am flesh; i am blood. I chose my path, my destiny. I fight in foreign lands for my wife, my husband, my children, my parents, my brothers, my sisters. I fight to honor my fallen comrades and to protect the ones who stand at my side. I fight for no ruler; i die for no council. I choose to fight for you.
I take no pleasure in terror, no joy in violence. I have been to war; i have seen suffering. I have seen my brothers in arms shot from the sky. I have seen my allies taken captive and tortured for sport. I have seen innocents caught in the crossfire, their lives torn from them in an instant. Children are screaming in the streets crying for their parents. Mothers are wailing and tearing at their hair because their families are lost. I have seen sailors drown and pilots crash. I have seen civilians scarred beyond repair. Do not tell me i glory in destruction. I wallow in blood and live in a nightmare to protect your peace.
I have fought for your right to protest my existence. I have died for your right to be at my funeral with your picket lines and your insulting chants. I have defended your right to hate me, to love me.
I have seen the grief of children when their fathers never return. I have held weeping mothers at the graves of their sons and daughters.
I am the father who does not see his children born, who misses the first steps, who never hears the first words. I am the mother who kisses her children to sleep through the phone, through letters. I am the sibling who prays for her familys well being while i sit in the desert surrounded by gunshots and the cries of the dying.
I am the one that has chosen to fight, to protect, to die. I am the one who puts my life on the line for those that hate me and those that love me. I leave my family and my home to defend my country and all those who dwell within it. Curse my existence or praise it.
I will stand tall; i will persevere.
I have sacrificed my security, my family, my life, and i will continue to do so.
Because i am a soldier.
Because i am a marine.
Because i am an airman.
Because i am a sailor.
Because i am a proud member of the United States military and this is my promise, my duty, my desire.
So sleep in peace; i am on watch, i am vigilant, i am ready. And to my brothers and sisters in arms i offer a salute. May god watch over us all and prepare us for the battles to come.