“All it takes is all you’ve got.”
– Christopher Antonik KIA 11 July 2010
Long before the Raider community had a name, there existed an ethos.
Only the men who already had that ethos branded deep within their core were accepted into that fraternity of rough and ready men.
There was no coddling or coaxing. No lowering of standards or bending the rules. The men that were there either had it or they didn’t; willing to risk it all or were lukewarm and apathetic in their affections for lesser things, too cowardice to be bold in face of potential defeat (do not all great men have great failures?). The men that stood there at the end knew that anything less than their all might cost them all their whole. That anything less meant to dilute the excellence that drove them beyond the surf into histories maelstrom. To sum it up, they were men of Honor.
Before they had a name they had a flag.
And when that flag flew, both friend and foe alike knew to be keen of what was to come, that it spelled salvation for some and vanquishing for others.
This specific flag I carry has flown on combat operations in Helmand Province Afghanistan. It has been on HALO jumps over Australia and boarded ships over the Marianas Trench. It has been in the jungles of the Philippines, the savannahs of Africa, and carried over 1500 miles on foot in honor of brothers lost.
It has seen the best of men and the worst of mankind. Now it is about to embark on a 2700 mile bicycle ride.
This flag to me once represented something to aspire to. Now it waves alone, asking me if there is anything left to salvage from the glory of the past.
At one time the men under its sway cared not for title or creed, but were men of action, men of honor. These were not plaster saints but none the less honorable men, who knew the intimate bonds of intense training and combat and what it meant to stand beside your brothers in dark days.
At one time the surf rallied us around the fire and a man’s word was his bond.
Where have those days gone? Are we so easily persuaded to sacrifice all that is noble and pure and true for temporary pleasures? The suffering that comes with endurance and faithfulness will at long last break into liberty when calloused hands hold fast to righteousness and truth. But the timid hands that break faith and covenant with brothers knows no depths to its treachery.
My time on those fields has come and gone but righteousness does not change with the times. Another generation is under the flag now. Will that flag stand for what great men accomplished and are yet to accomplish or what great men failed to do in moments of crisis small and great?
This flag is fading, but what was there before will always be there because it never was about the flag.
The deed, not the word.
You are, what you do, when it counts.
The only question to ask yourself now is “when does it count?”
- Aaron Vanderbeck