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Clear: Remember Those Who Gave 'Last Full Measure of Devotion'

war memorial and or battle remembrance

World War II Memorial, D-Day Inscription. The inspiring words of General Dwight Eisenhower,inscribed on a granite wall of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.,were delivered to U.S. and Allied troops just before they invaded Normandy, France on D-Day: June 6,1944. The World War II Memorial was designed by Friedrich St. Florian. (James Emolo/

By    |   Wednesday, 15 May 2024 03:34 PM EDT


The Story of Command Sgt. Major Donovan Watts Is Unforgettable

Most veterans don’t talk much about their military service.

You must experience it to truly understand.

This Memorial Day will be followed by the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landing on June 6, 1944. In that battle, in just 24 hours, over 4,400 soldiers died on the beaches of Normandy in the service of their country.

Each gave what Lincoln called "the last full measure of devotion."

Sometimes the real cost of liberty is best appreciated by zooming in on one brave soul whose life made a real difference.

For me, that man is Command Sgt. Major Donovan Watts.

Sgt. Major Watts was a career soldier who notched over 28 years in the U.S. Army.

Most of it was spent on the sharp tip of the spear with the Elite 82nd Airborne Division.

He began there as a young paratrooper, was promoted to squad leader, and attained the rank of senior noncommissioned officer of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

I first met him at Army posts in Fort Polk (now Fort Johnson) Louisiana, and later at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 

I always knew Command Sgt. Major Watts would have my back.

He was the epitome of a soldier and was proud to tell everyone he was married to the U.S. Army. He often joked, "If the Army wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one."

Sgt. Fernando Arroyo wrote about Sgt. Watts in his book, "The Shadow of Death: From My Battles in Fallujah to the Battle for My Soul."

Arroyo joined the Army after 9/11.

He served in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2003 and 2004, and earned his elite Ranger tab in 2005.

Later that year, he came up for promotion and appeared before the Sergeant Promotion Board. Sgt. Major Watts was the presiding officer, and it was an encounter he’ll always remember.

"I had to look at him and salute and say, 'Corporal Arroyo reporting as ordered,'" Arroyo says.

He recalls Sgt. Major Watts just stared at him, taking his measure.

The room was silent.

Regulations required Arroyo to hold his salute until it was acknowledged.

He stood stiff as a board as the other two sergeants critiqued his uniform and tried their best to rattle him.

Suddenly, Sgt. Major Watts decided he’d had enough.

He stood, saluted Arroyo and said, "Have a seat, tell me about yourself."

Arroyo says that caught him completely off guard.

It was the first time an officer showed an interest in his life beyond the military.

"He got me to think about the future and the rest of my life," he recalls.

The entire mood shifted when the sergeants saw he had earned the elite Ranger tab.

That’s when Sgt. Major Watts declared, "There are three kinds of dogs."

He explained that there was the pampered house dog, the sheltered porch dog, and finally, the bedraggled, vigilant guard dog who lives outside in the yard.

The yard dog, he said, must dig a hole to sleep in.

He’s rained on and gets grimy.

And this dog wants action so bad he can’t wait for someone to trespass and jump the fence.

The sergeants all chuckled at Sgt Major Watt’s description of the yard dog’s miserable life. Arroyo joined in the merriment.

But he recalls that Command Sgt. Major Watts suddenly grew quite serious, and the room grew quiet.

"Everybody just stopped laughing," Arroyo recalls. "And he looked me right in the eyes.

And he stops smiling and says, 'So, what kind of dog are you?'"

"I'm a yard dog, Sergeant Major!" Arroyo proudly declared.

"That’s right boy! You’re a yard dog. You’re airborne infantry. We’re out front. That’s the kind of leader we need!"

A few days later, Sgt. Arroyo learned he’d been promoted to sergeant.

He would go on to learn first-hand, as I did, that Sgt. Major Watts' reputation for putting the welfare of his soldiers above his own was well-earned.

"He always took care of us," Arroyo says.

That loyalty to his soldiers would ultimately cost Command Sgt. Major Watts his life.

Rather than stay safely in the camp to supervise operations — his rank entitled him to that and no one would have questioned it — he wanted to be with his “yard dog” troops out on patrol, where enemy IEDs made every patrol perilous.

One day, Arroyo had just returned from a mission when he heard a loud explosion. Everyone grabbed their weapons and ran to respond. But soon the word came over the radio for everyone to stand down and report to the hospital. They knew that was bad news.

"A medevac helicopter landed and turned off its engines," Arroyo recalls. One of the sergeants walked out of the hospital and told the men to prepare to pay their last respects to Command Sgt. Major Watts. Moments later, the sergeants emerged carrying a body draped in the American flag.

"As they walked him to the helicopter it was so quiet," Arroyo recalls.

"We just rendered a final salute. We watched as the helicopter crew got in, turned on the engines, and just flew away with Sergeant Major Watt's body. And we’d lost our sergeant major."

Take a moment to ponder the profound, ultimate sacrifice of selfless heroes like Command Sgt. Major Donovan Watts.

I referenced President Lincoln earlier, and I’m reminded that as the 16th president gazed out over the rows of white headstones at Appomattox, he urged every American to commit themselves to ensuring those deaths were not in vain.

Toward that end, on June 8, my colleagues at CityServe will join a team from Voice of the Veteran and from Las Vegas-area churches in hosting a unique "Day of Gratitude" at Allegiant Stadium, the site of this year’s Super Bowl.

We will be honoring veterans and their families with special musical guests, entertainment for young children, and over $3 million in household essentials.

We do so in remembrance of heroes.

We do so because, as Winston S. Churchill once put it, "We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

What would Command Sgt. Major Watts say if he were with us today?

When that question was posed to Sgt. Arroyo, he answered, "Command Sgt. Major Watts would say that our service was not in vain, that since September 11th there has not been an attack on our soil, and that we kept the enemy outside so people could live their lives."

After a somber pause, he added, "He would say the sacrifice of leaving the homeland to prevent another 9/11 was worth it."

On Memorial Day, let’s honor Command Sgt. Major Watts and all the other brave heroes just like him who believed America was well worth the ultimate sacrifice.

Former Army Col. Samuel Clear (Ret.) is the program manager for CityServe West Cook. He served as a Deputy G-3 in Kuwait and Chief Plans ARCENT in Afghanistan.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

On Memorial Day, let’s honor Command Sgt. Major Watts and all the other brave heroes just like him who believed America was well worth the ultimate sacrifice.
churchill, lincoln, memorial
Wednesday, 15 May 2024 03:34 PM
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