“The hour is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud.”
— President George Bush speaking to the American people on Sept. 21, 2001
Cpl. Matthew Phillips made us proud. Proud to know that a true patriot lived in our midst, even if for far too short a time. Proud to bring his body home to rest among us. Proud of those willing to sacrifice for the betterment of all.
But a community’s pride serves as a poor salve for a family’s grief, little solace to a widow suddenly alone.
There are no words sufficient to ease the pain of a family that has suffered the loss of a loved one killed in action for his country.
There are acts of human sacrifice too noble to be adequately chronicled in words alone. Such was the sacrifice of Matthew Phillips.
It has been impossible over the past week not to be moved by the display of community support for the young Army corporal killed in action just weeks short of completing a 15-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The lowered flags, the roadside salutes, the dignified processions, motorcades and funeral all indicative of the price paid by some for the freedoms we all enjoy and take for granted.
It is too easy for most of us to think of the battlegrounds of the Middle East in abstract political terms. The image of Cpl. Phillips, youthful and strong in Army uniform, brought the reality to home for all of us last week.
We owe to Phillips and his family a debt that never can be repaid — one that is as old as the nation itself, as ours is a country built upon such sacrifices.
Our nation’s legacy is that we have been blessed by those willing to give their lives for the ideal of freedom, and for the protection of others, and to do so without reservation.
Cpl. Matthew Phillips was an American hero. We can offer no better epitaph.