The morning of December 6, 2004, five heavily armed terrorists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
I remember loud pops from the AK-47s and the muffled thud of improvised explosive devices; I remember hours hunkered under a desk and a scramble for protection when the Marine called “Gas!; I remember crouching through our corridor, being locked in a vault, the safe haven filled with hammering and grinding of sensitive material. I remember hours of this.
I remember the phone call, the wailing when we learned of our first casualties.
I remember the debris where bullets pierced our windows, smashed the concrete walls, shattered televisions. I remember the blackened doors, the pockmarked glass. I remember the sweating Marine standing guard at the rear hatch, hours after a heroic dash from his burning barracks to the weapons room inside the Chancery.
I remember: Five consulate employees dead. Ten severely wounded.
The United States was engaged at the time in the War on Terror. Before that, Iran and Beirut, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi (19 years ago this week). Since then Sana’a, Peshawar, Ankara. Benghazi. So many others.
Are these sacrifices forgotten? We serve without arms, promoting America’s interests in dangerous places. We serve, but are poorly served. Our casualties, our sacrifice, our service, all are belittled. All demeaned. All, by some, forgotten.
We knew that we were patriots long before a survey told us so.