To my comrades, fellow veterans of the Global War on Terror (GWOT):  on this Memorial Day I call you to action.  Do not let others define our generation and our service.  Define yourselves.
 
In a time where victimhood is celebrated, where discourse is dominated by ineffectual and verbose liberal academics, and society led by inept deceivers – we alone showed the world for the seven years after 9/11/01 that America was the indisputable world super power and that darkness could never put out the light. To the contrary, the light would come with insurmountable power to punish its enemies.  We are the brave few volunteers upon whom the existence of the entire free world relies.   
 
We are the lionhearted difference‐makers who – in the flower of our youth – cast off the mental shackles of our society’s historic entitlement, weakness, and cowardice to serve and to take the greatest of the world’s challenges head on.
 
The modern jihad was declared against us a half‐century ago and has escalated exponentially every decade since.  The Global War on Terror is simple:  it’s either in their backyard or ours.  Just because many civilians can’t pull their heads out of social media, self‐indulgence, and the shallow self-celebrity culture long enough to face this reality doesn’t change it.  In fact, their childish behavior and worldviews are precisely what set the conditions for the jihad and other evil in the world to advance.

We showed the world that, despite our society’s cowardly quibbling, America’s volunteer military was --incomparably -- the most powerful and professional in the world, and that we would defend our nation fearlessly when attacked.  While civilians who risked nothing and sacrificed nothing trembled and called for surrender, we warriors roared undaunted toward imminent danger.
 
Those few of us who were there know the ferocity we brought to bear upon our enemies’ heads -- day in, day out, 24/7 -- despite being sent to war without the manpower mandated by our own doctrine and with a fundamental lack of the resources needed to employ our own best tactics.
 
Our nation’s strategies were deeply flawed and have only become appallingly worse.  Resources needed on the battlefield were inexplicably misallocated to wasteful military construction projects and the massive forward operating bases.  Rules of engagement were made fatally insufficient and remain so today.  The “legal” consequences for our own warriors are ncomprehensibly more severe than for the very demons we were sent to capture on the battlefield.   
 
Despite all of this, one of the greatest stories never told was our victory in Iraq.  On its heels, however, was the greatest of betrayals:  a deliberate surrender of the already won victory in Iraq to serve anti-American political objectives. We still have troops in Germany, Italy, Japan, and Korea – yet we pull out of Iraq while the ground is still wet with the blood of the best and brightest of our young generation.   
 
Afghanistan was won in 2002 and also would have been secured long ago if not for a total lack of national commitment over the entirety of the war’s now nearly 15-year history.  Instead, that war has been allowed to persist in an inexcusable state –- ultimately becoming a telling dichotomy as America’s longest war and America’s first war to be forgotten while it was still being fought.
 
Our country completely and unapologetically failed us, yet we never once quit on our country.   
 
Thus, we are left to live our lives with the burden of this betrayal.  The meaning of our sacrifice is forever tainted, our victory stolen from us by unworthy leaders and an ungrateful, apathetic people. Little do they know how justified our anger is and how bitterly ironic and utterly illegitimate their prejudices are.   
 
This is where I call you to action.  Become a positive example and a force of good in your community.  We must reject the destructive typecast of how many civilians see us:  as a generation of veterans forever damaged from being sent to fight in ill-conceived wars. This narrative, as well as the public’s morbid fixation on sad stories, comes from a total and utter lack of care about you, the veteran.
 
It is all to serve other dark motives, to include deliberately undermining your future –- for we GWOT veterans are a tremendous threat to the progressive political machine.  
 
Beware and treat accordingly all of those who want to use us as props. For if society sees us as damaged goods, we will never be able to make the great impact we must if we are to save America from its free‐fall decline. Just as for our predecessors, the warriors of every American generation thrust into the crucible of battle, it is our duty to leverage our experiences, strengths, and character to lead America forward. She needs us now more than ever, for the death of the Republic and American Dream is at hand.
 
To those who have seen close combat: close combat is tough. There is no doubt that such combat is a test of character.  Remember, though, that each of us is solely accountable for our character –- as we are the ones who determine exactly what we stand for in our lives.  Focus not on the trials, but on the growth that comes from our experiences.  As with our training ethos, that which does not kill us makes us stronger. Honor our fallen comrades each day with what you chose to stand for.
 
To those who have not seen close combat:  be proud of your service and the role you played. We are all one team.  Let us all be good teammates when taking credit and when drawing on the limited resources available to veterans.  Do not blame all of your personal or life problems on PTS. To do so is unproductive for you and also fuels a false narrative and widely held prejudice that is the greatest obstruction to all veterans’ post‐military careers and overall reintegration. Do your part to only spread accurate and positive perceptions of veterans with your words and actions.
 
No matter which of war’s tragedies we know – the friends we lost, the sacrifices we’ve seen and made – know that the greatest way we honor our fallen is by what we do with the rest of our lives. Help your teammates see this ultimate truth and lead the way. Do not let one more of our comrades become an easy victory for the enemy after they have made it home.  We are the fortunate ones, blessed with the opportunity of continued life! Let us declare to the world and engrave in history that our small segment of society represents America’s next greatest generation –- and the absolute best of our time.   
 
Upholding basic expectations in the military – early is on time, work until the task is done, integrity, accountability, and discipline – will set you far apart from most of the civilian workforce. The advanced qualities we developed –- resiliency, leadership, complex problem solving, ingenuity, and the entrepreneurial spirit –- equip you with the ability to advance farther and faster than your civilian peers.
 
Confidently leverage these strengths and boldly pursue noble goals undaunted by our society’s ignorant views of you. There are those who truly appreciate your service and understand the value you bring to civilian life. Seek out these good Americans, your allies here at home, and do not let something as simple as relocating deter you from opportunity. Relocating is how America was founded and built.
 
Shatter the false narrative about our generation. Force the world to remember those we lost and our severely wounded comrades. Do this each and every day with the exceptional manner in which we pursue the meaningful undertakings we must dedicate ourselves to for the rest of our lives. This is our duty and the absolute best way for us to honor our fallen comrades and our gold star families.
 
Steve Yen is a former Army Infantry Captain, Ranger, and Bronze Star Recipient who served leading/commanding troops in Iraq in 2006, 2007, and 2008. He is the Founder and CEO of Valor Services based out of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas.