I just wanted to take the time this Memorial Day to say an enormous Thank You to the men and women in the armed forces.
I was watching the news a few years ago when the face of someone that I knew from school flashed on the screen. My initial thought was, “Oh great, what trouble has someone from my hometown done now?” But it wasn’t anything bad that he had done. He had died in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan on his second tour of duty. It was then when everything became a little more real to me. Although we weren’t friends, I knew him. Had cheered for him at football games, passed him in the hallways, knew members of his family. It was a little too real.
It was natural for people in my school to join the military after graduation. We knew the recruiters well enough to wave and joke with them. We grew up just down the road from what was first an air force base, later becoming a joint reserve base. In fact, if I go to the end of my parents’ front yard, I can see the air strip. Planes blasting over my head never bothered me. Most of my classmates came from military families. It was just natural for most of them to follow in their parents’ footsteps, or join their friends to sign up. I never even thought about it when they talked about it, or did it. To me it was just something they’d do. Although it was never anything I wanted, I just didn’t think about it. But that day in November 2006 changed me. It became real. It slammed it home that people I knew, had grown up with, laughed with, performed with…it could be them up there on the screen.
Last year another face popped up on the tv screen. Someone younger than me, someone that I had JUST seen his MySpace picture. He was gone too, leaving behind a young wife who had just found out she was pregnant. I called my best friend, who knew him, and we cried. We cried for the loss, but I cried with her because suddenly, it was finally real to her as well, and I knew how hard that was.
Sgt. 1st Class William Brown and 1st Lt. Robert Vallejo, Jr – you are remembered. Thank you for serving this country.
To those who have fallen, have served, or are actively serving now …