Saturday, September 26, 2009

Memorial For A Soldier

Earlier this week Kerry and I were talking on Skype when a missile hit his base. We both jumped and he said, "Wow that was close, I'd better go see what's happening!"

I made him promise to call back as soon as he could, it was scary knowing he was under fire at that very moment.

He wasn't able to call, but he did email to let me know he was all right.

Unfortunately, not everyone was. One soldier was killed and six others were wounded.

Kerry wrote me yesterday to tell me about the memorial service they held for the soldier who was killed:

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All gave some……some gave all.

I attended our unit’s first memorial this afternoon for one of our soldiers. This was the unit’s first casualty. We have had several soldiers wounded, but we have not lost anyone until this week.

I did not know the soldier. I knew his unit. I knew his name and rank. I knew his military specialty. These things I gathered from the hand-out that was provided to me at the memorial service. I also gathered other pertinent facts from listening to the speakers that described this soldier. He was a loving, married father with six children. His children were 8, 7, 6, 4, 3 and 1 years old. He was scheduled to go on leave in two days. He was thrilled to be going home to be with his family and was looking forward to sitting on the floor of his den with all of his children surrounding him. One of his primary desires was to go home and cook a meal for his children.

The ceremony was so very hard. Each of us was shaken to the core. This had happened, was happening every day across Afghanistan…but now it had happened to us and we as a unit had lost one of our own for the first time. None of us really knew him except for the soldiers in his platoon. But we knew what he had done during his brief career, where he had trained, what he had experienced thus far as a soldier. All of us were soldiers, no matter what our rank and we had all walked in his footsteps in one way or another. He was one of us. Everyone in the in the chapel today knew what he stood for, what he had sacrificed. He had sacrificed himself for all of us, for his country and for his buddies on his left and right. In combat the macro becomes the micro. The big, overall objectives disintegrate and the focus crystallizes on the soldier to your left and the soldier to you right. I heard the glowing descriptions of this soldier, father, husband, and son. I ached for his family, for the children and his wife that would grieve for him, that would never really know their father. Each one of us in the chapel felt the knot in our throats grow as his commander and fellow soldiers each stood up and spoke of him, each of us felt the stinging in our eyes, felt the tears run down our face unashamedly. We all grieved for him and his family. His loss was our loss, his sacrifice our burden to bear, our risk to take because of what we do and who we are. Each of us was overcome with sadness. Everyone felt a strong sense of pride as we slowly and silently made our way through the crowded chapel and marched by to salute his picture and pay our respects to him. An M-16 rifle was placed upright at the front of the chapel next to a pair of his boots. His photograph was placed in the middle of the boots and his dog tags hung from the handle of the rifle. Each soldier walked by, stood at attention, rendered a perfect salute, and then knelt down for a moment in front of his picture. Some bowed their heads in grief and murmured a few quiet words of farewell. Many reached out and touched his dog tags. Almost to a soldier everyone quietly pulled their name tapes or patches from their uniforms and reverently placed them in a small, neat pile by his picture. Then each soldier stood up, saluted him for the last time and walked out of the chapel.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

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