Today is one for reflection and thanks to those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice in our nation's history.
It's been a tough year for me personally, as MAJ Jason George and SPC Russell Hercules Jr. lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 365.
Jason was a good friend-- we were fellow lieutenants together at Fort Riley, Kansas in the mid-90's, and his combat engineer platoon supported my tank company at the National Training Center in 1995, which, before our wars in the Middle East, was a real big deal for the peactime Army. We then went to Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of Task Force Dragoon-- he was the 1-41 Infantry engineer, while I was the XO of Alpha Tank, an armor company attached to the mechanized infantry battalion. He got out and we lost touch, but he was recalled on IRR as a member of a Miltary Transition Team (MiTT) and died within weeks of arriving in Iraq, killed by an IED. I miss him and thank him for being willing to do his part when he didn't have to and could have resigned his commission completely so as to prevent being recalled.
Russ was a member of the commander's personal security detachment when we served together in the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Baghdad during the Surge in 2007-08. He was one of the youngest members of the 4/1 Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and caught a lot of ribbing because he was so earnest and eager-- straight from his Tennessee home and not all that worldly. But, he was a great kid, and I saw him a lot because I spent a lot of time out with the brigade commander and usually rode in the truck Hercules drove. We started calling him "McLovin'" after the character in the comedy "Superbad" which came out while we were over there and was a favorite of many a soldier to watch during the deployment. He transferred to the 101st Airborne Division to be closer to home, and while a member of the Aviation Brigade's Pathfinders unit, was killed last fall in a direct fire engagement. His death hit me hard, as I had not expected him to be back in the fight so soon. He left behind a wife and an infant son, and I hope that one day, his child will understand and appreciate what his father gave up and why.
The purpose of this post is not to be political; as a soldier I have gone where I've been ordered and done my duty. I've been fortunate to survive two tours of duty in Iraq, plus another peace keeping operation in a country seeded with landmines and other dangerous unexploded ordinance. Why I lived and others did not is something I won't ever understand, but I'll always be grateful for those who gave their lives for our own legacy.
I raise my glass to Jason and Herc and the so many others, including my other friends who have perished in Iraq: CPT Ben Sammis, CPT Chris Kenny, CPT Joel Cahill, CPT Sean Sims and SSG Jens Schelbert-- Godspeed to you all and gratitude to your families.