This Memorial Day remember those who died in battle
By C.C. Finn
Memorial Day is not a day you wish your veterans a happy day. It is not a day they give thanks for their lives. On Memorial Day, veterans are remembering those soldiers who died in battle. Soldiers they led or who fought by their side.
They are remembering soldiers who shared their fears and dreams and the loves they had at home. They are the soldiers they remember as “Rat Man” because at the end of the day in their solitary panchos at night they could hear his rustling noises as he opened food packages he’d stored away. “Cap’n Crunch” was named so by his fellow soldiers because he got a box of that cereal from home all the time.
Another soldier was “Cid” (‘Sid’ ) because he acted like a criminal investigator, taking the job so seriously. A combat veteran will remember these endearing nicknames, not the real names, of those who died unless they happen to remain together since basic. And then, he knows his real name because they were friends before they became brothers of war. And in the instance someone a veteran knew before the war has died in a battle they fought together, the Army knows it is true and knows it contributes to PTSD. Because the combat veteran knows his real name.
His name was “Joe”, though sometimes he called him by his last name. They met in basic training and went through advanced infantry training together. Then they went through airborne infantry training together. He was stronger than Joe in a lot of ways, but Joe did more for him than anything else could. Joe let him be a friend. It isn’t only the mutual support, but the echoes heard of the encouraging words given.
Joe went on to the war as he received more training. They met up again a couple weeks after he was in the country. When he became a leader of dangerous patrols near enemy territory, Joe didn’t hesitate to join him.
As months of near constant combat went by, others joined his patrol knowing it was the most dangerous with the least support and farthest away. They wanted to be where the brave belonged and the fighting was good, but they wanted to be there with him. With him because he was also the best medic among the patrol leaders and their best chance for survival if they got hit.
Joe had been with him for about six months when his tour was almost over. Joe didn’t have to go on anymore missions because he was too close to going home. When Joe found out about a mission involving several patrols, his friend told him specifically not to go on account of his going home in only a week. Joe didn’t listen, though, and chose one of the other patrols to go out with.
The patrols were in position, concealed and awaiting the enemy. He saw movement to his front left and registered it was Joe when shots fired and Joe fell. Joe died three days later. Joe was the last friend he would ever have.
Two years later he lived his first Memorial Day stateside. He remembered Joe and the many others who died that he led into battle. They are the souls he carries to keep their memories alive, to never forget those who died by his side. It is an honor and a duty he believed in just as no man is left behind. He felt survivor’s guilt, but came to dismiss it. A bullet didn’t choose Joe over him; the bullet was from one enemy soldier to another. The bullet didn’t care who it was aiming at other than it being someone it could see enough to hit. Sometimes it came down to the color exposed in the camo design and how it contrasted with surrounding greens and shadows. It could be a picture in the soldier’s mind of the family photo looked at earlier that morning, distracting him a second too long.
This Memorial Day honor those who fought and died for this country by knowing they are of the most elite force in the world. Honor their bravery in the face of death knowing that those who serve their country do so to protect the way of life you lead and pass on to your children.
Honor them by understanding those who fight the war are apolitical and only deserving of your support and appreciation. Say a prayer for the family they left behind; the mother who lost a son, the wife that loses her husband, and the child that will grow without a father.
This Memorial Day show your support with the belief that those who choose to fight for this country choose life’s most noble and selfless path.
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