From 'A Family Affair':
"“I then did the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life. I walked upstairs, woke Karen to the news, and broke her heart.”
Kelly had earned the terrible distinction of being the most senior American officer to lose a child in Iraq or Afghanistan, and not a soul would have begrudged him taking some time. But November is when the Marine Corps celebrates its birthday, and Kelly had been invited to speak at a celebration in St. Louis four days after. He attended, and there delivered one of the most powerful American speeches of the last decade and a half of war.
Even though most in attendance knew about his loss, as a courtesy it was not mentioned by the officer introducing him, who opened instead with the jaunty anecdote, “Let me share my favorite line from General Kelly when we were in Iraq. . . . ‘We’re the United States Marine Corps. We took Iwo Jima. Baghdad ain’t s—.’ ” Taking the podium to raucous applause, Kelly drew a clear moral line from 9/11 through to the fights in both Afghanistan and Iraq: “Our enemy fights for an ideology based on an irrational hatred of who you are. Make no mistake about that no matter what certain elements of our ‘chattering class’ relentlessly churn out.” Kelly expressed dismay about weak support for the war, and about how small the proportion of Americans who served was, before turning to the character of the current generation of Marines.
And what are they like in combat? They’re like Marines have been throughout our history. In my three tours in combat as an infantry officer, I never saw one of them hesitate, or do anything other than lean into the fire and, with no apparent fear of death or injury, take the fight to our enemies. As anyone—and many of you have—who has ever experienced combat knows, when it starts, when the explosions and tracers are everywhere and the calls for the Corpsman are screamed from the throats of men who know they are dying—when seconds seem like hours and it all becomes slow motion and fast forward at the same time, and the only rational act is to stop, get down, save himself. But they don’t. When no one would call them a coward for cowering behind a wall or in a hole, none of them do.
Kelly paused a number of times, clearly fighting back emotion, but never succumbed. He then made the only reference in the speech to Robert: “Like my own two sons who have fought in Iraq and, until last, this week in Afghanistan, they are also the same kids that drove their cars too fast for your liking, and played that Godawful music of their generation too loud, but have no doubt they are the finest of their generation.”".......