Today, being Memorial Day, I have decided to take a quick break from A Matter of Life and Death. I know, I know…. some of you are really getting into this story and can’t wait to see what happens to Edmund and the gang next. But today is special to me in many ways. Not only did I serve 20 years in the active US Army, but I spent 3 years of my life in Iraq and Afghanistan. While I came home unscathed, many friends and comrades came home in caskets draped with American flags.
There is no way to convey how it feels to lose a friend. To know that I will never again be able to listen to bits of wisdom or laugh at a joke. Soldiers and leaders alike, these men did what they did without being asked, often returning to the fight because it was the right thing to do.
So today I remember my comrades and friends. Young, barely commissioned 2LT Tim Steele who hadn’t even gotten his first promotion before Al Qaida killed him. To Capt. Nate King, who survived two tours in Iraq with me only to pass away after an airborne operation at Fort Bragg. Major Tom Kennedy, a man I came to respect while we were assigned at the United States Military Academy. A Taliban car bomb stole him from us. Sergeant Cornelius Hodges, a former Marine turned Army artilleryman. If there was one thing you could count on it was his loud style of professionalism and undaunting leadership. To Major Mark Hayry, lost in a tragic motorcycle accident far from the fields of Afghanistan or the deserts of Iraq. Sergeant Major Scott Schaade. He was one of 22 that day. Brigadier General Harold Greene, a man I only met a few times but was given the opportunity to train and develop his son at West Point. And lastly, to the young man whose name I never knew yet still had to drive to his family’s home and inform them that the Secretary of the Army regrets to inform them that their son had been killed in action in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At times I am haunted by their memories. Other times I sit with an odd smile that I can’t explain. There were good days and bad. Countless fights and enemy actions. Weeks of no showering or having little to no food thanks to Taliban intervention of our supply conveys coming out of Pakistan.
To you, these are just names and perhaps, pointless deaths in wars you don’t understand. To me, these are some of the bravest and selfless men I have ever had the privilege to know. God speed gentlemen. You have earned your long rest and do not fret. The rest of us will be along soon.
These men will forever be a part of who I am.