Memorial Day and The Privilege of Ignorance.

By Tom Demerly for


U.S. Marine Corporal OR-4 Dave Morgan is dead.

Bled out while waiting for a medevac helicopter in Helmand province Afghanistan. His wife, 23-year-old Brittany Morgan, will find out tomorrow. It will be about three years and four months until his unborn son will find out.

A notice will run in his hometown paper. His mother, his pregnant widow, her sister, Members of the VFW and his Marine recruiter will go to his funeral.

And that will be it.

Apple will announce a new iPhone, the stock market will fall and rise, a Presidential candidate will say something embarrassing, a policeman will be in trouble for entering a bathroom to make an arrest.

But the news of Corporal Morgan’s death will not appear with those headlines.

Almost no one will know.

Morgan joined the Marines when he graduated from High School. He liked sports, did great in shop classes but not great in English. He hunted with his dad before cancer took him. He kept his used Honda Civic running himself. He was resourceful, responsible and respectful.

And now he is dead.


Morgan believed he was doing something important. Dave Morgan believed he was protecting his country and the ideals for which it stands: Liberty, Justice and Freedom. The chance to do good. The chance to do something right. The opportunity to be one of the good guys. He did not earn much money. He did it because it was a calling.

The moment at which freedom is compromised, the moment at which the headline contains your hometown, the moment when you personally become a part of the news- the moment war, terror and oppression reach out and grip your throat, that moment is one moment too late to change your opinion, to advocate for a stronger military. You will not know terror until that day. You are insulated from it.

Insulated by the efforts of women and men like U.S. Marine Corporal David Morgan.

And until that day it is unlikely you will ever understand. Because of Dave Morgan and others like him.

In the United States we live in a bubble. A bubble of security and complacency provided by the luck of geography and distance, and maintained by men like Dave Morgan. But a short plane ride away there is war and terror. We’re mostly oblivious to it. It has always been a feature of human history.

Our bubble has been maintained by 1,196,554 women and men who died protecting it in wars since 1776. On Memorial Day, we honor their sacrifice and acknowledge their lives.

Dave Morgan and everyone like him understood this. They sacrificed to prevent our bubble of freedom and security from being pierced. And in the case of Dave Morgan and many others, they died for it.

This weekend we acknowledge that.



Author’s Note: The main character in this article, “U.S. Marine Corporal OR-4 Dave Morgan”, is a fictitious name representative of all 1,196,554 women and men who have lost their lives in armed service to the United States. This fictitious story spans these million-plus stories, all more than worthy of being told. Instead of telling them all here, which is impossible to do adequately, “Corporal Dave Morgan” represents them all thematically.

The photo at the top of the page was shot by photographer Todd Heisler of the Rocky Mountain News. It is one of the most iconic images of the Global War on Terror and of the armed services. It appears in this essay:

Visions of the Decade: Todd Heisler’s Final Salute

Author Tom Demerly served in the U.S. Army and the National Guard.

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