They had just returned from one mission when their Sergeant approached them with another one. It was risky, but they already had two weeks of leave accrued. He promised them two more if they took it and a solid month off was too much to resist.
His buddy didn’t feel good about it. Something just told him they didn’t need to go, but he allowed himself to be persuaded. Sadly, he should have listened to that small, still voice and its whispered warning. As they stood outside their vehicle during a stop, the whistle of a mortar caught their attention. Just before it hit, his buddy pushed him away. That selfless act saved one life . . . and cost another. His death was not immediate and did not come easily, but help arrived too late and the friend he had persuaded to take the assignment died in his arms.
He requested and received permission to escort the body of his friend back home. And when he arrived and saw the young man’s mother, all he could do was say “I’m sorry.” Over . . . and over . . . and over . . .
Now, each October and November, he withdraws from the world. Even though decades have passed, he has not forgiven himself. His friend became a casualty of war and he feels the weight of his actions to this day. As he shared the story with me, he stood there and cried. After all these years, he cried. I will spare you the horrific details he provided. I won’t subject you to the heart-wrenching pain and guilt he conveyed, but in my heart I knew I had to share his story. So I asked his permission—and he gave it willingly.
This, my friends, is why we have Memorial Day. It isn’t so we get a long weekend. It isn’t so we can fire up the grill and say hello to summer. It is to remember and honor those men and women who died in service to our country, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us can enjoy our long weekends while eating burgers at the lake and basking in the sun. Our cemeteries are filled with those who lost their lives to the violence of war. Don’t let them be forgotten.