Today I saw the story about Marine Sgt DeMonte Cheeley, who was awarded the Purple Heart. Sgt Cheeley was shot in the leg in the course of the shooting at the Chatanooga Armed Forces Career Center, where he and the other soldiers were prohibited from carrying weapons.
I remember the day this shooting happened. I was horrified along with the rest of the country. I worried for all those impacted and felt the grief of the families who lost someone. Today I saw this article, and felt compelled to respond. I don’t know this Marine. But if I did, this is what I would say to him:
My husband, Lt. Louis Allen, was killed in Iraq in 2005. His death was the result of a claymore mine, which was tied to the window just feet from where my husband and the commanding officer, Cpt. Phillip Esposito were sitting. Lou and Phil had no idea, as they sat in Phil’s office, that one of their own was right outside that window, stealthily planting the weapon he then detonated from a safe distance. The explosion rendered Captain Esposito unconscious. He never regained consciousness before he died. My husband, however, was conscious for hours. He had plenty of time to be made aware that he was dying. He spoke of me and our four children, and how sorry he was that we would not make it home to us.
The military acquitted the traitorous soldier who offered a guilty plea in these murders. My husband was never awarded the Purple Heart in spite of every effort our family has made to remedy that.
I tell you this only so you know I write from my heart;
You have earned the Purple Heart. Please do not allow yourself for one moment to feel as though you do not deserve this honor. You were in the uniform of this country, performing your duty, when you were attacked. The Armed Forces Career Center became a combat zone the moment the attacker opened fire.I commend your loyalty to the military. I appreciate your service and your humility. But I do not support the forced helplessness of you and all those who are prohibited from carrying weapons while on active duty. I feel this inane regulation makes the military complicit in every injury and death that results from incidents like this.
My husband would be the first in line to pin that Purple Heart on you. By accepting this medal, you in no way diminish its significance or devalue others who have earned it. That the military has been made to recognize this not only affords you the recognition you earned, but restores my faith that maybe, one day, it will recognize my husband’s sacrifice as well.
Thank you for your service.