By Jocko Willink
Published May 27, 2019
I walk toward you. I know you’re still there. You will always be there, in that same place.
As I approach, my emotions start to get the best of me. But the good memories cancel out the sadness—for the moment.
When I finally arrive, I get down on one knee. I do that out of respect. It also makes me feel closer to you.
I put my hand on the white marble stone.
The rock is cool, even in the warm sun. It reminds me of death.
I am here to say goodbye, since I never got the chance to say it to you.
Why would I have said goodbye?
I have to admit: even in the face of death, I thought we would live forever.
Especially you. You were smarter than me. Funnier than me. Kinder than me. Better than me.
Why you and not me?
Did I let you down somehow? Did I do something wrong?
I miss you.
I miss the times we had. I want them back.
I want to hear your cackling laugh. I want to see your broad and uncontrollable smile.
I want to see you walking toward me, and know that everything is going to be all right.
I want to feel like I felt then: that things were good.
But more than that, I want to the things that had yet to come.
I want more than anything to see where you would have gone. I want to see what you would have done. Ideas you would have formed. The mark you would have made.
I know you wanted to be a father. And you would have been an incredible one.
Better than me, for sure.
I know you had dreams—dreams you would have pursued with inextinguishable enthusiasm and unending commitment.
My eyes start to water as I stare at your name. I don’t want to cry, so I lift my head and look around.
In looking, I am reminded that you are not alone here, in this sacred place.
As far as I can see there are other markers.
Row upon row upon row upon row of simple, plain, white, gravestones.
Each one representing a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine.
And because I knew you, I know that each one of those marble stones also represent a person’s dreams. Dreams of the future. Dreams of life. Dreams of family and dreams of love.
And I know that all those dreams were sacrificed for me.
For me, for my family, for our country. So that we could have peace.
So we could have the freedom.
That is what you gave to me.
That what you and all the rest of these fallen heroes have given to me.
You sacrificed your dreams so that you could give me the freedom to dream—and the freedom to act on those dreams. That is what you gave to me.
So for you: I will dream often and I will dream big. And I will pursue those dreams as you would have pursued your own dreams: relentlessly. I will not fail.
I will also make sure that this country, this Great Nation that you gave your life for, that it does the same: We Will Not Fail.
I close my eyes tight.
I lift my hand off your gravestone and stand up.
As I do, I realize something: I am not here to tell you goodbye.
No. I do not need to say goodbye, because you are still with me.
You are with me in everything I do.
You are ever present in my heart and in the thoughts that fill my dreams.
You and those that lie here with you, you all have given everything for me.
And while I will not say good bye, I will simply say:
Thank You. I WILL NEVER FORGET.