For Memorial Day, I was going to rehash my annual appreciations and talk about my military family’s service in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam again, but our friend, Jonathan (Bryan’s blogging buddy over at Free Air and Water), has been posting a series of remembrances of his fallen friends from our most current war. It is extremely important to remember that people, real people die in service. And usually, very young people. The military isn’t much on us Olds–young people can march farther, see better, and run faster.
We call these people soldiers, but other people call them son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, dad, mom, uncle, aunt, friend. It does not negate their bravery or their sacrifice to remember them as such. Soldier, Troop, Airman, Marine, Sailor–those are descriptive of the duty, not the human being. Mine are/were Dad, Uncle Junebug, Uncle Kenny, Boom-Pa, Grandaddy, Pop, Uncle Bob, Uncle Joe, and Barbara. I cannot imagine my life without any of these people, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I don’t have to.
I asked Jonathan if he would mind me sharing his thoughts with you. I hope you won’t mind me posting them either. My family is insanely fortunate that all of our soldiers have come home, and have come home with all their body parts. It is extremely important to remember, as Jonathan said, “that every time politicians start calling for a war, there is some kid out there like Nick Crombie, young and brave and innocent to the ways of the world, who will believe what he is told about duty and country and will die halfway around the world instead of living his life.”
- David Nicholas Crombie was 19 years old when he was killed by an IED on June 7, 2006. He was my best friend through basic training and also my bunkmate all through medic school. He once bet me I couldn’t finish a 64 ounce margarita in five minutes. He won that bet, but then bet me double or nothing that I could not finish another one in under five minutes. I do not remember if he won or lost that bet. I miss him. He was young and brave.
- Joseph Gilmore was two bunks down from Crombie and I in AIT. I remember he had a TV and Xbox set up in his wall locker. On weekends he’d open it up and sit there playing like a kid, which we all were. He was killed by an IED on May 19, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq. He was 26 years old, married with two children
- Gabriel Figeroa also went to AIT with me. He was a quiet kid who was in the next platoon over, but when we all got to Ft. Hood together we naturally stuck together through inprocessing with those familiar faces we remembered from medic school. I got to know him a little; he had a goofy sense of humor and looked and sounded like a little kid. He was killed by small-arms fire In Baghdad, Iraq, on April 3, 2007, at age 20.
- Christopher Kurth and Leroy Webster were members of my battalion, which is to say they lived for fifteen months in the same very small town as me, known as FOB Union III. I did not know them particularly well, but I made small talk with both on occasion. On their next deployment, after I had left the unit, they were both killed in action.
- Marisol Heredia was 19 years old when she was mortally injured in an accident on our forward operating base. I did not know her well, but I try to remember her. She was so young.
- Of course there are so many Iraqi civilians I saw killed. I wish I knew their names. The one I remember most clearly was the first. She was a woman, maybe in her mid-30s, walking along the side of the road in Al-Hillah, Iraq. She got in the way of an IED meant for us. She died instantly. I wish I could say something profound about all these deaths. I wish they added up to something lasting. All I can really do is remember them.
I want to thank Jonathan for sharing. For every person who loses his or her life in a war, there is a person who lives with the memory–who saw it, who felt it, who tried to patch it up, and who tries to sleep every night after it has happened. The dead have died, and the living live with their deaths. It takes a strong person to live through a war, and keep living. We shouldn’t forget that either.
Men and Women of the military, thank you.