Memorial Day has always been a day that our family observed beyond the BBQ and long weekend event. My Dad was a career soldier and served in Vietnam, and having lost many of his friends there, Memorial Day had special meaning. My Grandfather served in World War II and honored that generation of American Warrior that gave so much for the cause of freedom.
But Memorial Day took on a new or at least a special meaning to me once I returned from Iraq… and more so once I retired from the Army.
It was a hot early morning 18 miles south of Baghdad, I was returning with a Patrol from B CO. We had been patrolling a sector looking for insurgents that had been placing IED’s along MSR Tampa, the main supply route in and out of Baghdad.
We had turned the corner and were on the side road that led into our camp when all of a sudden the whole world came unglued. An RPG hit the HUMMV in the lead of the convoy flipping it over. The young soldier in the turret’s name is SPC Wright. He was severely wounded. The driver and co driver were shaken up pretty bad. The patrol dismounted and returned fire, in what seemed like an hour (it was actually about 2 minutes) it was all over. The insurgents fled.
Now this was not the first time we had engaged the enemy in and around our sector, but this day was the day that we really did not want to make contact.. we were heading home in a few days. Specialist Wright lay on the ground surrounded by medics covered in blood and transmission fluid from the HUMMV. I was looking down at the young man, he was only 20 at the time. His eyes stared at me and he asked me if he was ok. “You’ll be fine” I told him. The medic handed me an IV bag and I held it up as they opened it up to a full drip. “Am I going to die Sergeant Major?” he asked. “Not today” I told him. The Blackhawk with the big red cross on it arrived and we loaded him in. As he flew away I thought that this day would be one I never forget. I had seen death, destruction, and what the worst in human nature could do to other humans, but this was close. When we got back to the states I saw Wright, he is alive a well. He told me that all he could remember of that day was me standing over him telling him he would be ok.
Today we remember all of the men and women that paid in full for our Freedom. I lost a dear friend, SSG Brad Lindsey in the fight against Global Terrorism. He was a soldier in my company when I was a First Sergeant. He was my radio operator. On his second tour in the Global War on Terror he was killed in Action in Afghanistan. It was a hurt that I will never forget.
We have all been touched by the loss of a service member. So today, unfortunately is the one day that we all choose to remember.
So enjoy the BBQ, have a great day off… but some time today, look to the heavens (cause that’s where they are) and say thanks to those that paid the price for our freedom.
Last Thursday, the Scouts of my Troop, and the Scouts of the entire Thunderbird District placed a Flag on every head stone at the Willamette National Cemetery. A few hours of our Scouts showing that they really care and an opportunity to reinforce in this next generation the idea that freedom has a price and someone has to pay it.
I hope to God that none of the Scouts of my Troop ever have to go off to war. But I never want them to forget the men and women that did.
Have a Great Scouting Day!