Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day

written by Husband.


 In 2006 I started what I would call a subconscious campaign to ignore Memorial Day.

 That lasted a couple of years. The reason was fairly complicated on the face of it. I had deployed to Iraq in 2005 with an infantry brigade to Tikrit, in Salah ad Din province. My campaign to forget had to do with the decision to invade Iraq to begin with, my own struggles with what could be called survivor’s guilt (whenever I showed up somewhere it was all over, whenever I left it all began, and who's Humvee gets hit by an IED and he's the only one NOT injured in it --  me), attending what turned out to be way too many memorial services in country, seeing a young friend bleed out, hearing about the death of another young friend who always made me smile when I saw him, and probably many other reasons I could list having to do with the psychology of being a soldier in a war.  Memorial Day represented pain to me and I didn’t want to experience pain so I stayed as far away from it as I could.

That lasted a couple of years.  The reason was fairly complicated on the face of it.  I had deployed to Iraq in 2005 with an infantry brigade to Tikrit, in Salah ad Din province. 

Then one day I interviewed a World War II vet, who also happened to be a Korean War vet, who said he never had a bad day in the Army. He said this to me in Bastogne, Belgium during the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, where he had been injured pretty severely.  I didn’t understand what he meant, considering what he had gone through in those two terrible wars.  But he meant every word of it and he said it with conviction like it WASN’T the craziest thing a person could say.

He also said he admired the soldiers today and all we’ve gone through in Iraq and Afghanistan and he was amazed at how we stood up to all we went through.

That planted a seed in my brain based on the question (asked incredulously) "How do I compare to a veteran of World War II and the Korean War -- high intensity warfare at its worst?"

 I don't, of course.

Unlike him I wasn't injured in battle; I didn't fight for days on end, expecting to die any moment, perhaps.  My version of high intensity was spent in matters of moments, sometimes no more than seconds with bullets pinging off the Humvee armor, or mortars landing all around as I’m trying to go to lunch in a Humvee overfilled with other people trying to go to lunch, or maybe a minute or two of huddling behind a wall while bullets snapped overhead and mortars blasted out of their tubes next to me and Apache helicopters shot their rockets overhead.  It wasn’t Bastogne, it wasn’t the ugly reality of cold and death and fear.  It was a more surreal experience with tiny moments of overwhelming fear and excitement surrounded by a rather mundane and only slightly uncomfortable existence. And occasional death – arbitrary, senseless and horrifically violent death. 

I wasn’t part of the Frozen Chosin in Korea, or the Battered Bastards of Bastogne.  My unit, the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, was not known for holding against an overwhelming force heroically in Iraq like they had in past wars, rather we were known more for the fact that we always wore our “full battle rattle” of armor and helmets, even on the base, which gave us a slow, heavy pace, which in turn was called “The Raider Shuffle” – said mockingly by other soldiers.

That seed snapped me out of my self-pity.

The seed planted was this: all of us, me included, really need to honor the men and women who died for their country mainly because we aren’t one of them – we haven’t given that much.  This should be done regardless of our personal beliefs, political or religious or otherwise, and regardless of guilt or whatever emotionally twisted and turned path of logic we find ourselves wandering down.  Because the basic fact is quite a few people volunteered for their country and were sent to a foreign land and died there and this was done through several wars and for several reasons, and during some wars they weren’t volunteers, which makes their sacrifice that much more poignant to me.

This is what Memorial Day means to me.  A list of names of people I knew who died during a one year span in Iraq.  This list is of people who were in my brigade, Raiders one and all, doing the Raider Shuffle.  There were another 20-30 who were with us, but they were only attached to my unit and I didn't know most of them as well as some of these guys.  Some on this list I met only briefly -- took their photo for ID purposes if something went wrong, which it obviously did, or met briefly in my travels around Salah ad Din Province or in the time before we deployed -- while others I saw and worked with day in and day out. And I may have even missed a name or two who died from my unit, but these are the ones I knew, the names I recognized and the circumstances I remember.

I want to remember them.  I want to think about them and their families, about Kenny Rojas’s grin and Aleina Ramirez manning the MWR desk studying for promotion.

I would wish you would remember them, too.

1.       Army Sgt. Daniel Torres   February 4, 2005

2.       Army Pfc. David J. Brangman   February 13, 2005

3.       Army Spc. Dakotah L. Gooding   February 13, 2005

4.       Army Sgt. Rene Knox Jr.  February 13, 2005

5.       Army Sgt. Chad W. Lake   February 13, 2005

6.       Army Sgt. 1st Class David J. Salie   February 14, 2005

7.       Army Spc. Adriana N. Salem   March 4, 2005

8.       Army Spc. Aleina Ramirez Gonzalez   April 15, 2005

9.       Army Sgt. Andrew R. Jodon   May 12, 2005

10.   Army Pfc. Travis W. Anderson   May 13, 2005

11.   Army Pfc. Wesley R. Riggs   May 17, 2005

12.   Army Spc. Adam J. Harting   July 25, 2005

13.   Army Spc. Edward L. Myers   July 27, 2005

14.   Army 1st Lt. David L. Giaimo   August 12, 2005

15.   Army Sgt. Nathan K. Bouchard   August 18, 2005

16.   Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy W. Doyle   August 18, 2005

17.   Army Spc. Ray M. Fuhrmann II  August 18, 2005

18.   Army Pfc. Timothy J. Seamans   August 18, 2005

19.   Army Sgt. Kurtis K. Arcala   September 11, 2005

20.   Army Spc. Joshua J. Kynoch   October 1, 2005

21.   Army Sgt. Arthur A. Mora Jr.  October 19, 2005

22.   Army Spc. Russell H. Nahvi   October 19, 2005

23.   Army Spc. Jose E. Rosario   October 19, 2005

24.   Army Pfc. Kenny D. Rojas   October 29, 2005

25.   Army Spc. Lex S. Nelson   December 12, 2005

26.   Army Spc. Joseph A. Lucas   December 15, 2005

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thom,
Beautiful!! I was very moved.
Love
your
MOM