So, okay, I haven’t written anything recently. I’m having to process a development in my life – or should I say, a development in the lives of some others, whom I have come to know as friends, even family, over the years. I received the call yesterday. A close friend had passed. Of course there was a feeling of guilt on my part because as the years went by, we were not in touch with each other as much as we were earlier. That happens though doesn’t it? Over time, we all have our own lives to live and sometimes that means that we don’t have the time for friends that we used to have.
Of course, there were the occasional phone calls, and Christmas cards. Believe it our not, my friend would always send me a card on my birthday. No, I’m not kidding. I never reciprocated. I’m not much for cards. But I would call him and wish him a Happy Birthday old goat (he’s actually several years younger than me). He was Army, a Ranger. One of the best of the best. He retired 6 years ago, after 30 years, deployed I have no idea how many times, or places. I met him in Iraq in early 2004.
We didn’t like each other in the beginning. He was very Army. Clean cut, pressed uniform, My crew, I heard he had described as looking like a group of homeless guys: unshaven, unkempt overall. But we were both told we had to work together and we found a way to do just that. In the proceeding months I noticed his guys, including him, starting to look like us. They had ditched their green suits, and unless you knew they were Rangers, wouldn’t have known. He laughingly accused me of despoiling his troops. We worked well together.
He was a guy that could somehow turn the worst circumstance into a joke. I recall being under fire, we had rounds going over and around us, not to mention dodging the RPG’s. In a ditch, he turned to me and said, “Well, it could be worse”. I asked, “Really? We’re outnumbered 3-1, how could this be any worse?”. He smiled. Yes smiled and replied, “It could be 5-1.”. Okay, even under fire, I laughed so hard. It was true.
The last time I spoke with him was this past January. His youngest had just been accepted in a graduate program in Biology. So proud. I understand that feeling. No indication that he was ill. When his wife called me yesterday, I was floored, as most, even in his own family were. No one knew, except his wife. That’s what he wanted, and she acceded to him. I asked about funeral arrangements and she told me that no, there wasn’t going to be a funeral. Of course, he’ll be buried with honor by the Army. We’re headed out tomorrow to be there, in Virginia, for that ceremony.
He was highly decorated. Really one of those we may describe as a hero. Of course, like all of us, he would have said the real heroes were those that never made it back. In my mind, he was just that, and it has nothing to do with his service. He was a family man. When he was home, he doted on his children. He helped raise them to be honorable adults. That’s real heroism.
I’ll miss him. Right now I can both laugh and cry because he was one of the best I’d ever known, There are few like him today. That’s too bad because we need more people just like him.