Saturday, November 10, 2012

Annual Veterans' Day Address

My Friend SFC Christopher Edwards, a Hero to be Emulated

Veterans Day is important to me in a very personal way. For my newer readers, I am a veteran and a military retiree. My father is a Marine and a veteran of Vietnam. My brothers were both Navy. My grandfather was also a veteran of World War II who was in Military Intelligence, just as I was. My unlcle Michael Paulovich retired a few years ago, a USMC Colonel. My wife is a veteran, though she was injured during training and never had the chance to deploy. The list goes on and on.

My extended family is also comprised of veterans. The term "extended family", to most civilians, means in-laws, cousins, and those blood or legal relatives outside of the nuclear family. For those of us who served, especially those of us who served more than one term of enlistment, and even more, those who fought in conflicts see that term as something else. We are all brothers and sisters in blood, sweat, tears, arms, and bad D-FAC food.

Each year, I write something specific for Veterans' Day. Many times I tend to drag myself into melancholia while remembering those I served with who, like Schuyler Haynes,  paid the ultimate sacrifice. I also attempt to instill in the uninitiated what it means to be a veteran, and what this great republic means to us. One year I published a transcript of a speech I was asked to deliver to an elementary school.

To the majority of us, this great republic is something so unique and cherished that we are willing to fight to our dying breath to protect it. We don't fight for a president. We fight for ideals that were scribed into two important documents: The Declaration of  Independence and that supreme law of the land known as the US Constitution. We fight for these ideals because they are what protect our families and allow them the liberty and opportunity to prosper.

On this Veterans Day, much like most days, I wish to extend a deep gratitude for each and every American who has served this great republic:  those who served before me, those who served with me, and those who have served since. America owes you more than you will ever comprehend. What is more important is that they owe you more than most of them will even comprehend.

Thank You.

Those of you that have made it this far, I ask you to indulge me as I draw your attention to one veteran.

Americans, meet Christopher Edwards.

I met Chris when we were both stationed with 1st BN 6th INF, 1st Armored Division. Chris and I deployed to Albania together to help fight for the Kosovars that the Serbians were attempting to "ethnically cleanse". During my time in that assignment, Chris and I became close friends. I was his S2 NCOIC. He was my company's armorer. I was responsible for inspecting Mission Essential Vulnerable Areas (MEVAs) such  as arms rooms to insure potential breaches were deterred or mitigated. Chris very quickly decided that he wanted the arms room he was directly responsible for to be the example not only for the battalion but the entire brigade. That joint effort turned into off-duty camaraderie.

Chris would play hooky from home to play on my PS2. We both had an affinity for good cigars and scotch. On more than one occasion, we volunteered our services to provide security for various functions on the post, augmenting the MPs and the civilian contractors.

I got to know his family. I was there when his youngest was born. Chris and his wife were my family away from home. I left that assignment in December 2001.

Years went by. Chris and I sent the occasional email. However, as with most military people, the mission before each of us took precedence over keeping contact with old friends. It's an understood thing, as we have something more important to do. That is the life of a Soldier.

Then I read a story in the news. There was Chris. However, he no longer looked the same. His face was scarred and disfigured. His picture is the one at the top of this article. Folks, I do have to say, though, the blast forged a much more beautiful man than the Chris I had remembered.

The fact that Chris is still alive is nothing short of a miracle. While in combat, Chris suffered life-threatening injuries due to a roadside bomb. The blast should have taken his life. Make no mistake, it took its toll. Chris is lucky to be walking. He is lucky to be breathing. Most who suffered the injuries Chris sustained wold be content to take a medical retirement and sit in a little apartment living off pension and disability checks.

That is not Chris Edwards. Chris fought the medical boards and remained on active duty. Though no longer fit to deploy, he works tirelessly to get others ready to face the dangers of armed  conflict and war.

Chris is but one true hero and leader with a story such as this. There are many. They walk among us every day, not quick to brag. Most won't even acknowledge their sacrifices or contributions. That is not our way. We don't seek glory and accolades.

To my old and dear friend Chris, Thank you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for the leadership and dedication. Thank you for our liberty. Thank you for being a great man who was willing to sacrifice so much so that others may enjoy the blessings of  liberty.

To all who don't take the time to thank each veteran they meet, I give you Rapper "Soldier Hard"'s song "Shame On Y'all"...