U.S. Marines, Navy Seals, Benghazi and the LifeSite mission
February 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - That title likely seems very puzzling to you, but read on and it will be explained.
As John-Henry Westen noted in his recent blog post, we were both presented with the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award by the Catholic CEOs and executives organization, Legatus, on January 29 at their annual Summit in Orlando, Florida.
Others were honored with various awards during the Summit with its gutsy, timely 2016 theme, “No More Comfortable Catholicism.” It was especially impressive to see that Legatus also gave special recognition to today’s most prominent pro-life hero, David Daleiden.
John-Henry and I, along with our wives, received the award from Legatus founder and president, Tom Monaghan. It was an emotional experience for all of us. After that, we gave separate remarks to the large luncheon crowd.
The Summit theme, and especially the powerful opening night speech by Professor Robert George, providentially set the stage for what we had already planned to say. George’s very frank talk, warning of the great challenges all faithful Christians must now face, and to not be ashamed to publicly be a Christian, was echoed by other speakers. By the time my turn came to speak, the Legates were prepared to hear the additional frankness that I had previously written.
The full text of that presentation is published below and in it, among other things, I explain the relevance of the movie 13 Hours and the sacrifices and efforts of the former Marines and Navy Seals in Benghazi that fateful September 11, 2012, to the work that our entire team does every day for LifeSite.
Both John-Henry and I were surprised by the many people who thanked us for our comments from that time onwards during the rest of the conference. Some especially appreciated the emphasis that we each placed or our wives’ support and sacrifices that have enabled us to do this work for all those years. Also, surprising was the apparently large percentage of Legates who had seen the movie 13 Hours and understood what I had tried to convey. That is a rough, violent, but also historically accurate movie to watch. Clearly, Legates are no wimps.
The exceptional quality and fidelity of the speakers we have heard at the four Legatus Summits we have attended so far have greatly impressed us. I would highly recommend membership in that organization for any Catholic CEO or business executive who meets the membership qualifications.
Steve Jalsevac remarks to Legatus Summit, January 29, 2016
I am grateful to you, Mr. Monaghan, and to the members of Legatus for this recognition of our work for the past 18 years.
I’ve looked at the long list of persons who received this award before and am humbled and greatly honored to be listed among those individuals who have all been my heroes.
Last year, I noticed at least two of the recipients were in tears when they were given the award. I understood. Most people don’t realize the intense dedication and personal sacrifices involved in pro-life work, the loneliness that often accompanies it and the many disappointments, criticisms, hatred, spiritual attacks and even betrayals that are endured. It’s often brutally difficult in today’s culture.
Few of the pro-life and pro-family leaders that I know look for personal recognition. And so, when they suddenly receive an award like this, it can be somewhat of a shock. We’re often exhausted, emotionally drained and not used to being recognized and thanked in such a big way. Hence the tears and emotional reactions.
The fact that you present these awards every year is a credit to Legatus. John-Henry and I have been impressed with the heart and the fidelity of Legatus members. You are a special group of men and women, and I sincerely mean that.
We saw that last year when two prominent invited speakers cancelled because of intimidation by gay activists, and yet, you had an all time record attendance. In that way, you proclaimed you are with the Church, you are with God, and you will not be intimidated. We loved reporting that on LifeSite.
Five of our board members are also Legatus members. Solid, faithful people who fit in well with our team of 25 staff in 6 nations. We are blessed to have them with us.
Both John-Henry and I feel we are accepting this award on behalf of our whole team. We call ourselves the lifeSite family. We also call our work a mission – a mission to especially serve all the pro-life and pro-family groups and leaders around the world, and a mission to, above all, serve the will of God.
LifeSite was started specifically to overcome the bias and shutdown of pro-life news by the mainstream media. We have greatly succeeded in going around them directly to the public with over 30 million unique readers in the last year alone.
I must confess that I could not possibly have continued my pro-life work for over 35 years now, and done it with such intensity and endured the constant financial insecurity, the many trials, disappointments, intimidation lawsuits, threatening, vulgar emails and comments, and more, without the support of my wonderful wife Bonnie. Thank you my love. This award is even more for you than for me.
Bonnie is my rock, keeping me steady and sane. She spends much time every day in prayer, prayer for me and for this work, and she prays for our 8 children and so far 16 grandchildren and for many others. She has had to have the patience of Job.
I must also thank John-Henry for being such an inspiring and capable partner in this humanly impossible task of managing and developing the world’s largest international news service on life, family and related culture issues. We are both different in many ways, but because of that, we have made a very effective team since LifeSite was founded in September, 1997.
The man who really got this started way back then, and who then did not even know “what an Internet was”, but just that he was told he had to have a website, is Jim Hughes. He was our boss when we were then working for Campaign Life Coalition in Canada (CLC). Jim asked me to set up a CLC website which soon became LifeSite. CLC fully funded LifeSite for its first several years until our size and expenses outgrew what they could afford.
So, we went out on our own, incorporated in the US and Canada, set up an office in Front Royal, Virginia and hired our own staff. Thank you Jim for the support, encouragement and the freedom that you gave us to do what we knew we had to do. LifeSite would never have existed without you.
13 Hours and the work of the LifeSite team
It seems almost impossible to explain to anyone what we do every day and all that is involved in running LifeSite. It’s an incredible, on-going experience.
Two weeks ago I saw the movie 13 Hours. It’s the true story of the attempt by 6 heroic ex Marines and Navy Seals working as security operators for the CIA in Benghazi, Libya, to save the lives of US ambassador Christopher Stevens and his staff in a nearby compound.
I have to warn you, it’s a rough, realistic movie. I was shaken by it.
The security resources for the ambassador were pathetic. When they first visited the ambassador’s compound, the six operators saw that the mission was frighteningly vulnerable to an attack from Islamist militants.
But, no one would believe them. Everyone shrugged it off and said things would be ok and that the operators were being too negative, too pessimistic, too sensationalist. However, they were being realistic, based on their years of experience and what they knew, what they could see as people whose job it was to know and see these things, and to warn people about what was likely to happen.
Well, you know the story. The ambassador’s compound was overrun by a large group of heavily armed Al Quida militants. The CIA operators were located a mile away and repeatedly ordered to "stand down" while they saw this certain disaster unfolding. Despite lacking sufficient numbers and firepower and any US military support, they eventually ignored the orders, risked their lives and did what needed to be done. However, it was too late for ambassador Stevens and an assistant. In the end, those six brave men, all with wives and children back home, saved the lives of 36 persons from both locations. Unfortunately, two of them were killed and one was severely wounded.
Now why did I tell you all this? Believe it or not, I was overcome by how, in so many ways, this felt like what we experience everyday doing the work of LifeSite. We are truly in a vicious daily war, but we don’t use military weapons or engage in violent fights or use profanities. Our weapons are prayer and truth.
However, we do confront terrible evils and violence, every day, all day. And these dramatic news stories often happen suddenly and must be quickly responded to so others can take critically needed action. We don't have anywhere near the resources that our opponents have, but we do battle anyway with what we have and often achieve spectacular results. Some of our team have become wounded by stress and exhaustion and have had to leave the work.
The LifeSite team also reports many heroic and inspiring actions of selfless life and family heroes – that most people would otherwise never hear about. Our experience gives us an unmistakable, often unique view of the implications of most of these developments that we desperately try to warn others about – just like those CIA operators in 13 Hours.
The killings and threats to life and to our Christian civilization now are far, far greater than what happened in Benghazi. We are daily observers of horrible obscenities, the killing of millions via abortion, euthanasia, infanticide - and the deliberate corruption of cultures to facilitate all of this - and of a worldwide, historically unprecedented demographic collapse.
We publish professionally researched and written reports documenting what is turning out to be the collapse of our civilization. But, just as those Marines and Navy Seals experienced, despite the strong evidence we always provide, many do not believe us, say we are "too negative", we need to be "more positive", we are "sensationalizing" things, we are being "disrespectful". How I wish that were all true. We would gladly take that blame.
The reality is that we put our whole heart and soul, at considerable personal cost, into this mission to provide the truth about the most crucial developments in the world today. It is often the truth that no one else, or few, will take the risks to report or have the freedom to report.
Many think everything is fine. We’ll be ok. They do not want be disturbed by the articles on LifeSite or a talk such as we heard last night from Robert George.
The essential role of prayer
The LifeSite staff have a prayer conference call every morning. We all realize that our only real hope is in Jesus Christ and his Church. Anything can be overcome through union with Christ. The greatest power in the world is belief in and fidelity to Christ. That keeps us going. Facing uncomfortable truths is obligatory, in our view, so that we can become armed with the truth needed to make the best decisions.
If you read Lifesite everyday for many years, like NFL great Matt Birk, who revealed that fact to John-Henry last week in Washington, you will be especially well informed and better able to determine what you must do.
We love our work. We love it because we believe it pleases God. We are doing what He inspires us to do. Who could wish for anything better, regardless of all the crosses that come with it? We embrace those crosses. That is how Christianity has always changed the world. We offer our very lives to this.
Thank you again for this award. It means a lot to us and it will encourage our LifeSite family members to continue to persevere.
God bless you all and thank you.