Brian Ray Hoke was killed on 21 October 2016 while engaged in direct combat with ISIS militants outside Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
Brian, a former SEAL, a multitalented renaissance man; he could skydive, paint an impressionist combat image, ride a motorcycle, play the violin, and drink a martini (or several) with the same ease and grace that he would plan and conduct a combat operation. A loving father, Brian lived his life large and cared deeply for his family and those around him. Along with Christy, he built and nurtured resiliency programs that have saved lives from the invisible wounds of war. Possessing the heart of a lion, perhaps his greatest accomplishment was showing us how to tackle our demons. He loved you all and he made us all better. Our world was a better place with Brian in it. -BDP-
When Christy, Brian's widow was asked to describe her husband this is what she had to say. “the kind of person movies are made about, as are most of his colleagues. They are unbelievable human beings.”
Below is the eulogy given after Brian and Nate Delemarre were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. It is important to note that Brian and Nate were together assaulting the same compound when they were killed in action. They served together, they died together, and now they rest together, side by side in Arlington National Cemetery.
Thank you Christy and Colleen for this opportunity to spend a few moments talking about the incredible lives and legacies of Brian and Nate. I think it's important and appropriate for us to pause and remember a beloved teammate and colleague who we lost four years ago on this day. Brian and Nate have now joined Tyson, Doug, Jeremy, Nick, Doc Keith and many more of our brothers in Valhalla, and events like today's should only serve to deepen our commitment to honoring their legacies.
Carl Hoppe said that "I hope that my achievements in life shall be these - that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, that I will have given help to those who were in need, and that I will have left the earth a better place for what I've done and who I've been." If that is one attempt to assess the measure of a life, then by any standard, Brian Hoke and Nate Delamarre had lives of impact, service, and love that were well lived. Lives which we should all strive to emulate.
Earlier today we stood on hallowed ground. On ground consecrated by the sacrifices of great men and women like Brian and Nate. On ground that James Garfield called "the heart of America." It is fitting that we went there to honor two men such as these. Fitting that Brian and Nate have taken their places alongside the warrior elite of our nation, those who gave their last full measure of devotion out of a sense of duty to our great country, a sense of loyalty to their teammates, and a deep conviction in the nobility of believing in something bigger than yourself. If we are to ask ourselves who will tell our story when we're gone from this Earth, there, in that most solemn of places, Brian and Nate's story will forever be told by legions of warriors and patriots and citizens of a grateful nation.
For neither one needed to be in Afghanistan that night. Both had legendary records of service in combat around the world. Both were accomplished leaders who could have chosen to serve their country elsewhere. But duty compelled them to be in a place where we needed them most. Duty compelled them to lead in combat. Duty compelled Brian to be on that operation that night to help show new officers what leadership looked like; and it was duty that placed Nate once again in the war zone where he was a natural leader, and duty that compelled him to climb that ladder to come to the aid of his fallen brother. Nate could have waited for the situation to develop further, he could have done a number of different things at that critical moment but it was his sense of duty, his sense of loyalty, and his love for Brian that compelled him to act. So he climbed that ladder. And when we see him in again in Valhalla, he'll tell us that he'd do it again. And again. And again.
It is this deep sense of duty that binds these two great men together in eternity, that ties the men from this office together, and that ties them all together with those who've gone before us. It was Pericles in his funeral oration who said "Lift your eyes to the glory that is Rome and know that there were men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it."
It's an incredible country that produces men like this. George Patton said "it is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank god that such men lived." And live they did. Although they were both different people, they were both almost larger than life and both personified the spirit of the Office of Strategic Services - the legendary OSS from World War II. It was the OSS's leader Bill Donovan who said the ideal OSS operator was a "PHD who could win a bar fight." That was both Brian and Nate.
Brian, a former SEAL, a multitalented renaissance man; he could skydive, paint an impressionist combat image, ride a motorcycle, play the violin, and drink a martini (or several) with the same ease and grace that he would plan and conduct a combat operation. A loving father, Brian lived his life large and cared deeply for his family and those around him. Along with Christy, he built and nurtured resiliency programs that have saved lives from the invisible wounds of war. Possessing the heart of a lion, perhaps his greatest accomplishment was showing us how to tackle our demons. He loved you all and he made us all better. Our world was a better place with Brian in it.
Nate, a former Marine, described by one friend as "a scrappy academic", had a master's degree in National Security Studies, had previously served as an intelligence analyst before joining the ranks of his beloved paramilitary officers, and was a warrior to the core who was held in deep regard by all of those with whom he served. Colleen, Cara, and Callie were the center of his universe. Straight talking, deeply principled, Nate never walked away from a problem. He set incredibly high standards for himself and others and, like Brian, was the kind of leader people wanted to follow. His paramilitary brothers all fought for a chance to be on his team in Afghanistan, and for good reason. In the Scriptures it is said that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man may lay down his life for his friends." That's the kind of man Nate was.
Brian and Nate were both giants in a generation that has carried the burdens of war on their shoulders longer than any other generation in American history. In doing so, they paid both the visible and invisible price for their toils. And they paid that price silently. They knew that great undertakings are inseparable from great dangers, and in the cause of selfless service, they embraced the risks. They made us laugh and showed us that it's ok to cry. They showed us how to stand up in the storm and to have compassion for those who fell. In them, courage prevailed over timidity just as a thirst for adventure conquered complacency. They were immensely talented and blessed, and by serving with them and loving them as we did, we are also blessed. They carried themselves with an uncommon ability to blend zeal and kindness, and to deliver small acts and gestures of kindness that some would say separate a common life from one well lived.
It was CS Lewis who said "Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage"
Brian Hoke and Nate Delamarre represent the bravest of those knights, the bravest of a brotherhood of warriors and sentinels who live by a code that transcends time. They truly need no eulogy from me or any other man - for they have written their own history and their own legacy not in how they died together, forever bound in eternity, but rather in how they lived and the impact they left on all of us. Take a look to your left and right -- Brian and Nate's legacy is embodied in each of you. It's impossible to speak of them in the past tense as the influence of their personalities is still with us just as the way they lived, served, and died will never be removed from the core of who we are.
Addie, Stu, Sean, Cara, and Callie will come of age in a country their fathers loved deeply and fought to protect. They'll come of age in a country made safer by the passions and character and leadership and drive of their fathers. Made safer by the impact their fathers had on legions of men and women, on legions of warriors who will continue to carry the fight in far off lands so that you all can enjoy the shade from the trees that have been planted around you. You can enjoy the shade of those trees free from fear.
In closing, I'd like to leave you with a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes from a Memorial Day speech he gave entitled "In our Youth our Hearts Were Touched with Fire." Holmes said "But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death - of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil, our trumpets should sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will."
Let us dedicate ourselves to Brian and Nate's unfinished work. For those of us who still serve, let us tighten the straps on our rucks, steady our gaze on our enemies, and step off to do what we know is right. Let us vow to go the extra mile for each other, to extend a helping hand when we're down. Let us walk together on our path of recovery and healing, let us live life large and with compassion, and let us give no quarter to those who seek to do our country harm.
May God bless Brian and Nate, their families, their brothers in harms way, and this great Nation they gave their lives to protect. Fair winds and following seas and Semper Fidelis.
"Reader, if you seek this man’s monument—look around you,” the priest spoke as 500 friends and family filled Memorial Hall on 28 October 2016 to reflect on the life of Brian Ray Hoke. A life cut far too short, but one lived more fully than most, Brian died in the service of his country on 21 October 2016 at the age of 42.
The youngest of three children, Brian was born on 4 April 1974 in Cambridge, NE, and grew up in South Dakota. From an early age, Brian loved the outdoors, hiking and fishing whenever he could. He excelled at every sport, notably football, basketball, and baseball, and later in life he developed an enduring passion for surfing. He was well-read, painted beautiful artwork and played the violin.
Brian graduated from USNA with the Class of 1996 and realized his dream of becoming a SEAL, graduating from BUD/S class 210 in April 1997. He served at SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two and SEAL Teams Three and Seven with deployments to EUCom and CentCom. Following his military career, Brian remained in government service as a civilian with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the globe.
Brian married his wife, Christy, in 2008. His love for family apparent, Brian adopted Christy’s two boys, Sean and Stuart. Brian and Christy added to their family in 2015 with the birth of Adelaide, whom Brian adored. Always a role model, Brian organized outings between cousins and siblings to knit his extended family closer together with outdoor activities and adventures. Despite a hectic work life, he stayed close with friends around the world.
Through his humility, sense of humor, talent, dedication and love for others, Brian became a larger than life figure who touched the souls of people from all walks of life. Most recently, Brian devoted himself to helping those from his group who had been wounded or killed, raising thousands of dollars for those who could no longer serve and those left behind.
Brian is survived by his wife, Christy; their three children, Sean, Stuart and Adelaide; his parents, Dan and Virginia; sister, Mary; brother, Dan Jr.; and their families.
Brian loved his family, his friends and his country. He gave his life protecting those he loved. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.
Brian will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.