Monday, May 30, 2011
This day is intensely personal to me because I remember. I remember an ordinary day in November of 2003 (as ordinary as can be when you're in a war zone) sitting in the terminal of the airfield of Mosul, Iraq where my unit operated out of. I remember the call coming in to our XO on November 1st saying SPC Johnson's humvee was hit by an IED and he didn't make it. I remember a few days later the same XO callously remarking in the presence of several of us how bad SPC Johnson's injuries were. I remember thinking it was a stupid comment to make considering Johnson had friends that worked with me. I only knew him in passing. We were in the same unit and I would sometimes pass him in the hallway of the Charlie Company barracks as I went to visit my husband before we were married.
I remember later that week attending the service of SPC Johnson in the building on the airfield serving as the rec center. Given my height I was in the last row but I remember the Charlie Company First Sergeant conducting the roll call. You could hear a pin drop as SPC Johnson's name was called and there was no answer. I remember his two best friends whose names I can no longer recall address the group, speaking of Johnson's baby girl who was born soon after we deployed-the daughter he would never see again. I remember the formation filing out one by one and marching to the front of the room to salute the rifle with helmet sitting atop of it and dog tags dangling from it as a last goodbye and gesture of respect for our fallen peer. I remember how moved I was by the whole thing and kept stifling the urge to cry. I felt honored to be there but at the same time wished I was anywhere but there because it brought home the reality that those boots, rifle, and dog tags could have been mine. It could have been my husbands. It could have been any of us.
But it wasn't. Instead it was SPC Johnson. It was SGT Tina Time, my squad leader in basic training. It was my good friend SGT Gaunky's younger brother Tony. So, I remember-and I hope on this day whatever you're doing that you do too. If there was ever a day that brings home the message to me that freedom isn't free it's this day, these people, and all the others who didn't make it home.
Have a blessed Memorial Day.