Dear General Kelly – Condolence Calls

(First posted 19 October 2017)

General Kelley, sir, with respect – maybe you are not the best person to be advising the president* on how to handle a condolence call.

The way Marines speak with Marines, the language and the shared background – it does not translate outside. “He knew what he signed up for” – I know, and appreciate, what that means. It’s our way of acknowledging that the Marine knew the risks and gladly, bravely faced them – stood up, faced the battle in a way that honors our shared heritage… and on 10 November every year, for as long as we live, we’ll remember our fallen brothers and sisters in the same way they would remember us, were our fates reversed.

99.999% of people who learn their Marine has fallen will not learn it, as you did, from a brother officer (let alone the Commandant). They’ll learn it – officially – from some guy like me, uncomfortable in my Alfas and with chaplain in tow, both of us dreading the doorbell.

The man you work for …… there is nothing in his background that could prepare him for those calls. (That’s not an indictment – just a simple statement of fact). He appears to have all the empathy of a tick (that is my opinion – you work more closely with him so YMMV) – so these calls have to be an order of magnitude more difficult for him.

Please, General – don’t provide any more advice on how to handle sensitive issues like this. Neither one of you know how to talk with the 99.94% of people who are not Marines. Your boss generates enough self-inflicted wounds on purpose – he should not have to account for what I firmly believe was a well-intentioned mistake.