Military · Politics

Tribute is Not about Politics

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump spoke to both houses of Congress in the not-actually-the-State-of-the-Union Joint Address. I highly suggest watching it without any commentary, as like him or not, it was a solid speech and a good look at what he’s aiming to accomplish.

Toward the end of that speech, he paid tribute to Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL killed in action during a raid on an ISIS planning compound in Yemen. His widow, Carryn Owens, was in the audience.

It was a touching tribute, and as someone who has been danger-close to death in war, tore at my soul. CSWO Owens sacrificed as all members of the military are expected to, and it’s not a sacrifice that should be treated lightly or as part of a political game of winners and losers.

Agenda > Context

Many hard-left commentators, among them Michael Moore and the members of The View, insisted that President Trump wasn’t trying to offer tribute, but score political points and excuse his responsibility of CSWO Owens’ death.

Michael Moore made particular point about “ratings” apparently being President Trump’s purpose for the tribute, using Carryn Owens as a “prop” (language that several other commentators, including Bill Maher also used) for his ego and agenda.

Moore and Maher presume by default that President Trump is stroking his own ego, especially by adlibbing the magnitude of the standing ovation in terms everyone would understand (longest ovation ever). They further presume that Carryn Owens is a powerless woman deep in grief who has been press-ganged into making the President look good.

Just stating these presumptions notes how absurd they are. They presume in advance what the motive is, divorced from the context of the speech. But for a moment, let’s devil’s advocate grant that President Trump is a ratings-obsessed egomaniac and Carryn Owens has the willpower of a tumbleweed.

So What. What he said, and how he delivered it, was proper tribute to the sacrifice of a member of our military. At the risk of sounding Machiavellian, the end result of paying tribute was served, pretty much regardless of the character of the man delivering it. What was more important was the office of the person delivering it. The President, as Commander in Chief of the military, should be giving tribute to the men and women who pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Further, it beggars the imagination that the same people who espouse the ideology of feminism, where women are equal to men, immediately jump on a woman as being effectively powerless before a man’s requests.

Being a military wife is hard. Being the wife of a special operator is even harder. The backbone required to handle even a few days of “he may not come back, and I don’t know where he went” is ridiculous. It is absurd to think she was an unwilling “prop” pushed into making President Trump look good.

Finally, it is absurd to think that the entire chamber stood and clapped for so long because they wanted to make the President look good, especially since many of those in attendance have been vocal about their dislike of his policies, words, or character. President Trump didn’t cause that ovation; those in attendance did.

“They Lost Him.”

The View was torn up that President Trump would even make the tribute in the first place, since he had already deflected responsibility by saying the generals in charge of the operation “lost Ryan.”

This is ignorant to the point of insulting. Whenever a member of the military is wounded, everyone else desperately tries to get them out of the line of fire, apply care, and get them to safety and MEDEVAC. The most painful words that someone has to say is when he goes to the next person up the chain and says “we lost him.”

It has nothing to do with responsibility, blame, or anything of the sort. For as hackneyed as it sounds, “one team, one fight” is very literal when it comes to combat casualties. When someone dies, we all have lost someone. We all know it can happen, but it’s still like losing a family member.

On some level, I think President Trump understands this. The responsibility for CSWO Owens’ death is shared by everyone in the chain, from the President all the way down to CSWO Owens’ himself, but “blame” is a matter for after action reports and lessons learned, not for the acute pain of knowing that one of our own is now “in memory” rather than “in honor.”

Dogpiling the Grieving

The above arguments are sadly among the most cogent disagreements over President Trump’s tribute. Many on Twitter and social media poured venom at Carryn Owens for the crime of being a widow of a wartime casualty (summarized on Breitbart and Daily Caller), or repeating the above arguments in significantly less kind ways.

This is a grieving widow who has just lost her husband and received the best comfort that the President of the United States can possibly give (he didn’t die in vain), and all some people can do is complain?

Setting aside the wrongness of that for a moment, what sort of message does this send to people when those allegedly on the side of “tolerance”, “love”, and “acceptance” vehemently insist that a tribute to a fallen soldier is nothing more than a ratings-hiking, doormat-of-a-woman-abusing, publicity ploy?

Grief isn’t easy, and by no means is insisting that someone is a powerless wretch being abused for political gains the least bit helpful for steadily working through it. Disagree with the President all you want, but leave grieving widows out of it.


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