A large group of American flags. Veterans or Memorial day display
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I once walked among giants.

It was a brief time – that feels even more brief as the years pass since I wore the uniform of a U.S. Marine. It was just 25 years, and for some, that might seem as if two-and-a-half decades was a lifetime. Looking back, especially on Memorial Day when we pause as a nation to honor those who gave their lives in defense of freedom, my time walking among giants was a moment to stand in awe of these great Americans.

I’m not alone when I tell people that I walked among giants. It’s a phrase I’ve heard many veterans use when they try to capture what Memorial Day means for them. For so many of us in the firearm industry, we know and share this feeling.

We walked among giants.

Those giants grow taller as I grow older. They were fresh-faced men and women from all corners of America. They grew up on Midwest farms, bustling cities, suburbs and everywhere in between. They were American as could be. Some were the second and third generation of their family to serve in the military. Others were immigrants – serving in combat to defend America’s freedoms even before they earned their own citizenship. They were young – some as young as 18. They were sons and daughters. They became family. None of us knew it at the time, but they were giants.

I had the chance to walk in their presence.

Those wars – fought in Iraq and Afghanistan – are now part of history’s lessons. The years since the guns fell silent relentlessly continue. What remains, though, are the memories of those giants. America’s freedoms don’t come without cost. There is a high toll for the liberties Americans enjoy that’s been paid by these giants. Freedom’s cost isn’t lost on those in the firearm and ammunition industry.

There’s an umbilical connection between the firearm and ammunition industry and the U.S. military. This industry does more than just provide the means for all Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. This industry also equips America’s warfighters with the small arms and ammunition they carry into harm’s way. The rifles, shotguns, handguns and cartridges – essential tools for freedom’s defense – come from our factories.

The firearm and ammunition industry celebrates these freedoms every day. The American flag flies in front our factories. It is often hung inside the walls. Many of the production facilities proudly display memorabilia gifted to businesses from veterans who have served in war, many from those same veterans who walk the halls and floors that produce the finest firearms and ammunition that Americans use today. The memories of those who fought for freedom and are buried in our nation’s cemeteries are carried with them today.

This industry is especially indebted to those who sacrificed their lives to preserve freedom. This industry would not exist in the form we see it today if it weren’t for those patriots who picked up arms in defense of our values, our freedoms, our families and our neighbors. That radical sense of self-determination was sparked by Minutemen answering freedom’s call on the greens of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, in 1775. It cost the lives of Americans standing for freedom then and has echoed through generations through today even as Americans serve in far-flung and remote locations around the globe. That clarion call to freedom’s defense and the high price it takes is why we take one special day to honor these men and women who, despite the cost of their lives, stood in defense of ours.

I’m not alone in saying that I’ve walked among giants. We understand this deep in our souls. The sacrifice these young Americans – these giants – made for all Americans isn’t lost on us. Freedom’s cost was their lives. That’s why on Memorial Day, we pause with the rest of America to honor that debt that we can’t fully repay.

This Memorial Day, join the rest of the firearm and ammunition industry to pause, reflect and remember these giants. These young Americans, from all walks of life and all corners of our country, are more than deserving of a day of reflection. Their sacrifice purchased our freedom. Their blood bought our tomorrows and their memories cast the shadows in which we find respite.

They were giants and for a brief time, I was honored to walk among them.

—Mark Olivia, Courtesy of NSSF

About the Author
Mark Oliva is NSSF’s Managing Director of Public Affairs, The Firearm Industry Trade Association. He is a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant with 25 years of service, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Albania, and Zaire.

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  1. The firearms industry was and still is the orginal military industrial complex. The original reason so many hated war was because both sides, used the same guns. Made by the same companies.

    The Swedish Borfors company made a great 40mm auto cannon. Used by both sides during WW2.

    And before WW1 the USA paid a german company a royalty for the 1903 Springfield rifle design. So the weapons industry makes $$$. No matter who is fighting. No matter who started it.

    And now the jews and Palestinians are using the M16 to kill each other.

    And I’m extremely greatful, we have a strong and vibrant, homegrown firearms industry.

    • Odd that you would capitalize Palestinians while using lowercase for Jews. Hopefully this is only a typing error. Have a safe Memorial Day and consider not just just why, but how ‘We the People’ honor the sacrifices our Forefathers made so that We can enjoy the Freedoms they died to protect and preserve.

      • The Jews have made some very bad mistakes. Like learning nothing absolutely nothing, from the holocaust they went through.

        They are leaders, some of them, in the anti-civil rights movement in this country.

        And the palestinians (and other arabs) have also made some very serious mistakes as well. Like invading and attacking civil targets in another countries.

        The palestinians killed well over a thousand civilian concert goers. And kidnapped hundreds of others.

        I’m very comfortable with the Jews destroying the military forces that did this.

        War is Hell.


        The libertarians liberals and the Left were wrong. And President Reagan was correct.

        If you want peace then prepare for war.

        • The Jewish people have learned much from the Holocaust. At least the Israeli Jews. Which is why they are dealing with the Palestinians as they are now. It is the rest of the world that has failed to learn from not only the Holocaust, but also the threats of Evil. Simply because they let their emotions get in the way of destroying It. Unlike the Greatest Generation who all to well understood the threat and did what was necessary to send it to Hell.

          • No they have learned nothing. The soc.ial.ist state of israel is a disarmed society. Soc.ia.list don’t believe in an armed civilian population.

            And who are the people responsible who turned off the early warning systems in israel??? And yes the jews, who ever they did it.

    • btw
      The military industrial complex includes Hi Point, Heritage Arms and any low cost gun maker.
      Eventually they will come for the Daisy BB gun company as well.

  2. The national Memorial Day concert on PBS was especially touching this year. May God bless and keep the fallen in his Kingdom. I’m not crying, you’re crying!

  3. All gave some, some gave all.

    Here at TTAG, we have been known to make fun of the French a bit (only dropped once, etc.) but, if you want to see one of the best Memorial Day traditions that exists, go to your favorite search engine and look for a video of what the French do to honor our heroes. If you don’t want to look it up, here is the short version: Early in the morning of Memorial Day, they bring truckloads of sand up from Omaha and Utah beaches and, with their un-gloved hands, rub that sand into the inscription on each and every tombstone in the Normandy American Cemetery – Thus making the names carved into that white marble even more visible. Say what you will about the French but they know how to show that they remember what has been done for them.

  4. Dead American heroes made America the greatest country in the nation.
    I like dead Americans.
    Vote JRB in 20twenty???? 3 its three,? no 4.
    Biden in 2024


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