A very small percent of the American population has worn or will ever wear the uniform of the United States military.  The military is a peculiar thing and the people within it maybe more so.  These likely young 18-25 year old warriors fight with happy hearts and volunteer to do so.  A common theme among those who joined the military when I did and before, is that we did so under no pretense of war; did I believe that war was an impossibility; would it have been a game changer when confronted with the option to enlist or not?  I don’t know.  I doubt that I was ever that pragmatic about my decision making when I was 18.  But who knows.  One thing is certain: The men and women who have joined after 2001 joined in a very different climate than I did.  There was no question about where they would be in the short months after basic training was completed.

Today is Memorial Day, and as I sat down to write my seemingly random thoughts on mundane subjects, I knew that I couldn’t do it.  My wife was sitting next to me reading, and I, unbeknownst to her, was looking at her and remembering a Memorial Day weekend a few years ago when I got to travel home to see her during a break from pre-deployment training for the Marine Corps.  So, I tell you never take me seriously. I lied.  There is nothing funny in the following paragraphs, nothing made up, or exaggerated. But, it is worth reading, because it is real.

I sat in my seat of the airliner waiting impatiently for word from the pilot to get it together and complete his pre-flight checks.  At this point in my life I had been in the military for ten years and was used to travel, but nothing felt as good as getting home, and it never happened fast enough.  After a short time, the pilot came over the speaker and said everything was ready and that we were next in line for takeoff, but that he wasn’t moving from parking.  His voice, in a noticeably solemn tone, then told us passengers to look out the left side of the plane and to see what was keeping us on the ground.  I, along with other passengers, scrambled from our seats to see two service members making their last voyage home to rest transferring from one plane to another.  A Marine escort stood by, seemingly unshaken, watching his brother or sister in arms being moved ceremonially.  I scanned the personnel working.  I noticed the man who drove the   luggage vehicle had stopped, removed his hat, and stood motionless as the small procession made its way from his right to left.

All of the angst involved in flying home faded into the background.  For a second, we weren’t the most important thing happening, and maybe for a second we all agreed about something.  We all believed that we should witness this moment, and I believe that each one of us knew that seeing that moment would change us.  It wasn’t about politics or feigning support for a war you didn’t agree with.  It was about humanity, it was about knowing that these young men and women had the convictions necessary to look death in the eye because they believed in something.  I can assure you that both of these heroes were somebody’s child, father, mother, brother, or sister. They had written letters home and described their plans for post deployment.  I can guarantee you that the people they served with were their extended family, whom they loved, fought, cried, and laughed with the same way your children do, or you did with your siblings.  I know that when these Marines needed a confidant, they turned to their family members in uniform and found the solace they were looking for.  I know that the friendships they made were forged in battle, and that their spirit would live on in the men and women still fighting.

We don’t take the time to remember in some attempt to glamorize war.  We don’t remember so that we can win support for the politics of war.  We don’t remember our fallen brothers, sisters, and sons—daughters, husbands or wives because we are blindly patriotic.  We remember because in doing so we acknowledge the price of commitment.  We don’t remember in a “why did it have to be them” mentality, but in a spirit of understanding that where these young men and women went, fought, and laid down their lives, they were among their closest family.  In remembering, we are reminded that these men and women made decisions to be where they were and the badge they wear on their souls is the highest honor a military member can wear.

  1. Pam says:

    I’m so very PROUD of you and I love you so much. I’m blessed by you and your military family. Thank you for all that you do
    Aunt Pam

  2. Tricia says:

    This is a late reply to your blog, as I have just begun to be intact of such blog. After reading over half of your entries, I am honored more so, to read this one, in which I know your heart feels for your fallen military, be it… Marine, Navy, Army, Coast Guard, National Guard, etc. While being a dependent USN ‘retired wife’, I am still struck by the thought of those active duty today who live a life full of uncertainty. Your father and my husband were ones that never knew from day to day what was before them. I want to thank you personally for your service Heath! xo

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