I have a little story to tell. I am not quite sure how to tell it, but I feel obligated to tell it to you.
First, have you ever had a phrase or a song or a jingle from a commercial stuck in your head? You know, something that keeps repeating itself over and over in your mind? Well, the other morning I woke up about 3 am with the strangest sentence that kept repeating in my mind: "No greater calling hath a man than to give his life for his country". -Don't ask me where that came from, or why it was stuck repeating in my head at three o'clock in the morning, but it was. I also thought is was strange because the phrase should be: "No greater love hath a man than to give his life for his fellow man", not "calling" and "country". I decided that I must have gone to sleep watching some war movie or something, although I could not remember what. It finally went away and I went back to sleep.
Now I am going to digress a little to fill in some background. I'll connect up these two events later on.
Not long ago I met 2 young marines over a beer and a pool table. We took an instant liking for each other and shared a couple of good afternoons drinking beer, telling stories and generally having a good time. As time passed I realized that they had a kind of "don't ask, don't tell" relationship, This only served to make me like them better because I knew the burdens this placed on them in addition to serving in the Marines in a time of war. One of them had already done a tour in Iraq and they were both due to ship out to Afghanistan shortly.I am going to call them Alec and Tim, changing their names for obvious reasons, although I honestly wish that was not necessary.
Alec was 27, a sergeant and was the one who had served the longest. Tim was just 20 and was a private, first class. They have both since been deployed to Afghanistan, Alec went over first, followed a couple of months later by Tim. Alec told me a little story about when he had just returned from his first deployment in Iraq. He was in uniform and was just coming out of a store when an older man walking past stopped, looked at him a simply said "Thank you for you service", "Semper Fi", and then just turned and walked on. That little incident really made him feel good. He got a kind of warm "all over smile" when he recalled it. Alec has called me several times from Afghanistan on the phone (some of the guys in his outfit got free phone cards courtesy of the USO) and we have had talked, as guy will do, about life, politics and some of his experiences. Tim has emailed me a couple of times, once sending me pictures of him and Alec sitting in an open tent with their weapons while eating ice cream.
This morning I woke up to find an email from Tim. Alec had been in a fire fight in some little obscure village. One of his fellow marines had been cut off and Alec had taken an unarmed vehicle, gone in and rescued him. After the fire fight had ended they left the village to return to the base camp when the vehicle Alec was in struck a roadside IED and he was killed in the explosion. They said he has been recommended for a medal, probably a bronze star.
Medals are a good thing, but nothing can express the true gratitude we, living free in this country because of the daily sacrifices of these young men, have, or should have. That sentence "No greater calling hath man than to give his life for his country" has come back into the front of my thoughts today. I felt a compulsion to write this story and to ask you all to do something. The next time you see a man or woman in uniform, just take a moment and say "Thank You for your service." It is a small thing, but it really does mean a lot to them.
And to you Alec - Thanks, buddy -and Semper Fi!