Everyone should have a list of things and people for which they are grateful. Indulge me for a few paragraphs while I share one of those people with you.

I’m grateful for a man by the name of Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann. If you aren’t familiar with that name, you should be. Here’s why:

In the weeks following September 11, 2001 Mike Spann found himself at the very tip of America’s spear as the first counterattack in what would come to be known as the Global War on Terror. In late November 2001 – as most Americans gathered around their Thanksgiving tables – Mike Spann was hunting terrorists in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. An Operations Officer in the elite paramilitary corps of the CIA, Mike volunteered for the dangerous assignment.

On November 25, 2001 Mike was interrogating prisoners in the Afghan city of Mazār-e Sharīf. The prisoners started a riot and Mike was quickly outnumbered and outgunned. He was murdered by this group of Islamofacist Thugs and thus became America’s first casualty in the Global War on Terror. His body was returned to the United States and he was buried with full military honors (Mike had previously served in the Marine Corps and separated at the rank of Captain) at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Mike heard the call of his country, and he answered it fully and willingly. He put himself in harm’s way because he believed his cause and that of his country to be a worthy one. He gave, to paraphrase Lincoln, the last full measure of devotion to nobly advance that cause. For his sacrifice, he has and deserves the thanks of a grateful nation.

So, as Thanksgiving once again approaches, I’m thankful for guys (and gals) like Mike Spann. They work, fight, and toil in some of the harshest places to be found on God’s green earth. They patrol the streets of Baghdad, stand on watchtowers overlooking the Korean DMZ, and hunt terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan – just to name a few.

Still others work in the shadowy world of counter intelligence. Their thankless task is trying to read the tea leaves of communications intercepts and computer code and try to connect the dots in order to foil the next attack being hatched in some candlelit cave burrowed in Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal regions.

These shadow warriors do this job knowing full well that if they succeed, it is highly likely their success will be known by few and heralded by fewer. Success is often classified at the highest levels. Failure, on the other hand, is three-inch bold headlines on the front page of the Washington Pose, New York Times, and a host of other newspapers and media outlets.

So, while it is all together fitting and proper that we gather around the Thanksgiving table for much feasting, merriment, and federally required football watching, take a moment and remember the rough men and women who stand watch ready to do violence on your behalf so that you might peaceably enjoy your post-dinner turkey coma.

Godspeed, Mike. Thank you.

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