Thursday, August 15, 2013

Paying The Ultimate Price

I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Seeing the gun, boots, and helmet displayed next to their picture. Hearing the hushed voices of those grieving around me. Hugging other Army wives silently thinking, this could be any one of us. And seeing the families... One had lost a son. A brother. An uncle. The other family had also lost a son and brother who was a husband as well. A father.

My own husband was deployed. He still had a week and a half before he was due home. I was driving home from the gym when I received the phone call that two of our friends had tragically died in a helicopter crash doing what they loved. I pulled over and cried over the phone with the Army wife responsible for distributing information to the wives. The Army wife who had to tell me what happened and do her best to answer my questions. 

We cried. Those men were our friends. They were our husbands comrades. This time they weren't just names on the news. This time they weren't in another part of the country. Another part of the world. They were ours. We knew them.

Moments after we hung up my husband called from a million miles away. It was as if he knew I needed to hear his voice at that moment. I felt as though the world was crumbling away at my fingertips and if I could just hear his voice I could hold on to a little trembling corner of peace.

The memorial service would be held a few days later. I would be going. Alone. I was a new Army wife. We had been married for barely over two months.

But I needed to go to that service. I needed to be with other Army wives. I needed to be there for my husband. 

There were a total of four speakers. One was the head of the battalion, another was the commander of the unit, who has become a wonderful friend of ours over the years. Then there was a friend, also members of the battalion, who spoke for each fallen solider.

In far off places in my memory, places that I rarely allow myself to go, I can still hear bits and pieces of each eulogy. The stories that made me laugh, the memories that made me cry, and the break in their voices that broke my heart. 

Taps played. A single trumpet. There is no sadder, mournful, incredibly touching sound that hearing that trumpet play those notes to an absolutely silent room of hundreds of grieving people. 

I wanted to meet their families. I wanted to look into their eyes and shake their hands. Mostly I wanted them to know that their lost love would not be forgotten. That I would remember. That I would share their story. That I would tell my children. That I would remember the price their loved one paid so that I could live my charmed American life. I would remember.

I spoke through tears to their parents. Their sisters. One set of children and one wife. But through my tears I recalled my own stories with a smile. How each of these men, in their own way, had impacted my life. 

How Steve and my husband had roomed together on a recent deployment. At that time Honey and I were not yet married and those two bonded over the process of wedding planning - from the groom's perspective. It was Steve's second wedding. He would only be married to his wife for just over six weeks. 

And how Dave had come over to Honey's house to help us unpack the Uhaul I brought. It was before our wedding and the three of us talked easily about his hopes to "find the right one" and "definitely" have children. He loved his niece and nephew and his face lit up when he talked about them. 

I remember.

Honey and I have talked about death. After all it is a part of life. And in his line of work, it seems we are faced with losing people we grow to know and love more frequently than that of the average profession. We believe that when it's your time, it's your time. Whether you're driving down the road, flying in a helicopter, or sleeping peacefully in your bed. 

I will never, ever forget Dave or Steve. I am a better person for having known them. I will never forget their families. Their strength encourages me. They won't ever know that, of course. But I do. 

And I? Won't ever forget. 



Photo courtesy of The Station Foundation



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2 comments:

  1. I know that each and every person has a purpose in life. Dave and Steve's purpose (in my mind) is to serve are country and protect us, so that every American can enjoy the American dream. I can't imagine losing someone in this fashion. It's amazing that anyone "signs up" for a could be fate. Simply said, each of those men, including your husband, is precious. For what they are willing to lose, to gain and to experience. I am forever thankful for their service.

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    1. Very well said Stephanie!! I agree that everyone has a purpose and while you and I cannot understand why anyone would sign up for such a job (even as an Army wife I sometimes look around and say - all these guys are willing to fight for us, do we deserve it?!) we are not created for that purpose so the understanding that we lack is simply not within us. But you are right, Dave and Steve had it and I thank God for that.

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