With Memorial Day almost upon us, the CIA has released the names of 15 of its officers who over the past 30 years have died in the line of duty. When CIA officers are working under cover, their cover identities are maintained even after death in order to not expose their networks or put the lives of others at risk. They are memorialized only with a star on “The Wall” at CIA headquarters in Langley, VA. This is part of the buy-in when you make it passed the incredibly tough recruitment process and receive your blue badge as a CIA employee. You don’t serve for the public acclaim because there is none. In fact, it’s often the opposite. People rarely thank CIA officers for their service the way they do members of the military. Sometimes they’re vilified for it, even in their own country. Many people don’t know that the first combat casualty in the War on Terror was a CIA officer who was killed by Taliban prisoners during an uprising in Afghanistan.
As we remember all of the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country, I hope that you will also remember that those who serve and die in secret with our intelligence services. In the words of CIA Director David H. Petraeus: “The 103 souls represented by the stars on the wall behind me all heard the same call to duty and answered it without hesitation — never for acclaim, always for country. Their words and deeds will inspire us forever, and their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.”