This morning I awoke to thunder rumbling in the distance. Light rain was tapping at the windows as if it was beckoning me to take a look. I walked over to my window and peered through the blinds. As I did this, I realized it was Memorial Day; how fitting. The eerie feeling that washed over me brought back all too familiar feelings and memories.
Do you feel sad?
Do you feel gloom?
If you answered yes to both of these questions, then good, you should. Today is not a "happy" day. It's a day to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Could you, better yet, would you do it? It's not such an easy question to answer when you get to the core of it.
When I was in the Marine Corps, I made some of the best friends a person could ever want. I distinctly remember the long and emotion filled conversations my friends and I had. We discussed many things, what combat would look like, whether or not we would be able to do all the things we say we would in the heat of battle.
Would you risk your life to save another?
When put in a combat situation with rounds coming down range, would you rely on your training and insticts as opposed to living in the moment and most likely being shot?
These are very real questions, something I, and many others had to live with every day.
Be it by fate or the hand of God, I was not subjected to those situations. Prior to my battalion being deployed to Iraq, I injured my knee on a 25 mile hike up the Kahuku mountain range located on the North Shore of the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. This ultimately lead to my discharge from the Marines. My friends were not so lucky.
A month or so after injuring my knee, my battalion and all those whom I came to know on a personal level, were all gone. They went overseas to fight, while I stayed behind rehabbing my knee in paradise. This is something that still bothers me to this day.
Most of the Marines I knew returned home unscathed, but some didn't. One of the Marines I went to the School of Infantry with didn't make it. I was told his squad was doing house raids in Fallujah, which is a city 40 miles west of Baghdad. Apparently some suicidal rebel waited for them to raid the room he was in and threw a grenade inside the room to kill them all. My friend jumped on the grenade, taking the blunt of the explosion, saving the 4 other Marines who were in the room with him. He didn't die immediately, which gave the rest of the Marines whose lives he had saved to give their thanks before he eventually bled out. That my friends is the definition of honor and sacrifice.
Anytime I talk with my Marine friends, we talk about him and the others we knew who had died. Not just about how they died or the memories we had with them, which we do discuss, but selflessness it took to make that sacrifice. That's what memorial day is all about. Yes, we should remember the people themselves, but the sacrifice they gave is something words cannot describe.
How do you thank those who most bear the burden of their sacrifice? By remembering them.