Friday, July 11, 2014

Memorial Day has special meaning for veterans, families

“Know you are immortal and eternal in my heart.
For the heart forgets not even what the mind fails to remember
And I remember how you lived.”

Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day | PHOTO CREDIT: Public Domain
Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day | PHOTO CREDIT: Public Domain

I am a war veteran, a warrior, and a Soldier. Some think that retiring from military service is the same as a regular separation at the end of a four-year contract. It isn’t. Like all US Army retirees, I am assigned to a unit comprised mostly of fellow retirees. There are a few active duty personnel in charge of the unit. The rest of us have hung up our spurs, unlaced our boots, and assimilated to civilian life as best we can.

With a prior career that spanned five different presidents and several real world, overseas missions, I have memories and recollections worth sharing. I have made life-long friends upon whom I know I can rely should times of great trouble arise. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Among them is my wife and life-partner. Both of us being veterans and coming from families rich in military service makes Memorial Day a sacred day in our house. Our way of observing the day is uncommon, but far from unique.

Having served in multiple conflicts and “peacekeeping” missions around the globe, I feel a solemn duty to those I served with who did not make it home to their loved ones. Listing the names would take pages. During my third tour in Iraq, I found it too painful to continue counting. Yes, once upon a time I kept count of every Soldier, Airman, Sailor, and Marine I knew who made that ultimate sacrifice. I had to stop when an improvised explosive device near Hawijah, Al-Tamim Province, Iraq killed Army Corporal Yari Mokri . He wasn’t the last friend to die that deployment, or since. I miss each and every one of them each and every day.

The first friend I lost in Operation Iraqi Freedom was Army Captain Christopher Scott Seifert. Chris and I were fairly close. We served together in 1st BN 6th Infantry Regiment (Regulars By God!) where Chris was a platoon leader then our S-1, adjutant. He was “branch detailed”, meaning he was a military intelligence officer who was tasked to first serve as an infantry officer. Knowing he’d be heading to Fort Huachuca, Ariz. to learn the job field, he asked then Captain (now Major) Ted M. Preister and I to train him prior to his attending the course. A traitor murdered Chris. As he slept, the traitor threw a grenade into the tent. Chris left behind a newborn son and a loving wife.

On May 22, I joined several others to observe the funeral procession for CSM Martin Barreras as his remains traveled home to Tucson, Ariz. This is my sacred duty, to honor my fallen brothers and sisters.
Memorial Day isn’t a joyous celebration marking the beginning of summer in our house. Memorial Day is about recognizing the price my friends and others paid for my life, liberty, and opportunities to prosper. It isn’t just the lives sacrificed. It is the loss felt by each life those heroes touched, their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends and compatriots.

Whatever your plans may be for the holiday, take a few minutes to say thanks to those who paid for your freedoms with their lives. It matters not what your political views may be. If you enjoy the freedom to publicly express those views, those fallen heroes died protecting it. If you are reading this, those men and women shed their blood to make sure the freedom of press that allows me to publish it. If you enjoy the freedom to own and carry a gun or the property rights that allow you to forbid them on your property, those heroes made sure you have that right. If you enjoy the fact military and militia (including police) cannot kick you out of your home because it would make a good command post or quarters, those fallen sacrificed to keep that so. The same with every other liberty guaranteed by the US Constitution.