In Memory of Pvt. Sean Silva
House Chamber, Washington, D.C. December 14, 2010.
In the aftermath of the attack of September 11th, a young man from Roseville, California answered his country’s call to duty and volunteered to take the war against radical Islam from our shores to theirs. His name was Sean Anthony Silva.
This nation survives today – and Americans remain safe today -- because of the idealism, patriotism, heroism and sacrifice of young Americans like Sean Silva who volunteer to defend us. Today, they are all that stand between the tyranny and terrorism that have arisen in the Middle East and enlightened civilization.
We defend principles like liberty and justice in this chamber every day with our words. Men like Sean Silva defend them with their lives.
And on the night of October 9, 2003, Sean Silva defended them with his.
To understand the character of this young man, you need to understand what led up to that night.
Sean was a young person who saw his country attacked and instinctively rose to defend her. He saw his countrymen threatened and instinctively rose to shield them.
When Sean told his parents, Richard and Donna, that he wanted to enlist, they were concerned. His mother worried that Sean would be dispatched to the Middle East within weeks of boot camp. Sean’s reply was simple: “Mom, I’m ready.”
He wanted to be an Army Scout: always leading, always in motion, always protecting the path of his comrades. Sgt. Timothy Sloan of the Army’s Roseville, CA recruiting office remembered that Sean “wanted to be out doing things…he didn’t want to be sitting behind a desk.” Ultimately, he was assigned to the Second Armored Calvary Regiment based in Fort Polk, Louisiana. And from there, he shipped out to Iraq.
The night of October 9, 2003, he had already returned from one treacherous patrol and was scheduled for another the next day. A night patrol was unexpectedly ordered, and Sean volunteered to go right back out into the deadly streets of Sadr City, even though it wasn’t his turn. His commander reminded him that he had already done much more than duty required and Sean simply smiled and said: “I just want to learn to do my job.”
A few hours later, Sean’s patrol was ambushed and in the fierce fighting that followed, he gave what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”
At Normandy, the Chapel bears a tribute to those who (quote) “endured all, and gave all, that justice among nations might prevail and that mankind might enjoy freedom and inherit peace.” At the age of 23, Sean Silva did exactly that.
Sean would have turned 30 this year. No doubt he would be married with children now, with a promising career, getting ready for the holidays with his friends and family.
Instead, his chair remains empty at the family table, and friends still leave messages for Sean at the “Fallen Heroes” web site. There’s one in particular that stands out. It comes from a little girl in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, whose father survived that terrible night. It reads simply,
"Thank you Silva for protecting my daddy. He is here today because of direct actions that you have done. Thank you soo much.”
Sadr City is no longer besieged. Its streets now bustle with commerce and enterprise – and young people look forward to raising their own families and starting on their own careers. They do so solely because of the sacrifice made by men like Sean Silva.
That sacrifice is ongoing for Sean’s family every single day. I met Sean’s father at a Memorial Day event this year. He speaks of his son’s death as if it were yesterday. Time does not heal the wounds borne by our Gold Star Families. For them, every day is the day that the casualty officer came to call.
We owe it to those families to honor what Lincoln called “the cherished memory of the loved and the lost.” We owe it to these fallen heroes, as Shakespeare said, to see that their “story shall the good man teach his son.” And we owe it to ourselves, our children and our nation to remember how precious is the freedom and peace that their sacrifice has purchased.