Looking back on service


In my efforts to start back on a blogging schedule and search the vast corners of the earth for more words that move me, I am going to start a Wednesday Word.

I will post a word, quote, phrase or who knows what else that moves me, inspires me, enrages me or more. I may comment on it. Or perhaps I will not. Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic too.

So here goes, the Wednesday Word is: service

 

As Veterans Day approaches, I think of service. I think of all the time I spent away from my family and friends in other countries. I think of the dusty landscapes, lonely months and endless hard work.

I had it easy for the most part. Yeah, there were some occasional mortars landing here and there, and a few scary convoys/patrols,  but a majority of the time, I had “good” deployments. Of course, I contribute my experiences to my job. I LOVED it.

I traveled around the war zones telling stories about what other service members were doing. I wrote stories and took pictures that detailed these service members’ experiences and missions. I remember on my first deployment (Bosnia 2002), I was passing out the magazine we had created. It had one of my photographs on the cover, and I happened to run into the Soldier I had photographed while distributing the magazine around the compound. He smiled so big to see himself on the cover. He grabbed up a few copies and excitedly said he could not wait to show his family.

In that moment, I fell in love with my job. I had made at least one person, and presumably his family, happy and proud of of his service. I validated his time away. I made him realize his contribution had value.

Everyone wants to feel important and noticed. And everyone wants to feel like their work matters. So that has been, and continues to be my goal: share the stories of America’s sons and daughters who volunteer to serve. They are from all cultures, races, religions and sexes. They do everything from engineering to medicine. They are active duty, National Guard and Reserve. They are America’s fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

From the past to the present, Soldiers are citizens who chose the Army as their profession.  And even once they retire, they will always be a Soldier at heart. I just hope the ones who I have had the pleasure of covering over the years, never forget that they made a difference.

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Three Young Men I Never Met, But Will Never Forget


On Veterans Day, I always think of three young Soldiers I never met. They were killed in June of 2006 in Iraq. I was there as well, working at the Press Desk, which essentially is the hub for journalists to call for information during an event.

I started getting calls about three missing Soldiers. Obviously, if the reporters are asking, something has generally already happened. I started sending up inquires on the situation for releasable information. When Soldiers are missing, information is held tight for their protection (and hopeful recovery) and out of respect for the families’ privacy. Of course, media have a job to do, so they still call wanting information. It is a tough balance between operational security and the public’s right to know.

As the story eventually unfolds, all three Soldiers were found murdered. Casualties of war. Story over.

But for other Soldiers, the story is never over. I had not met them, but my tiny involvement in their story burned them into my brain forever. I thought about how these three young men (who were only in their 20s) would never go home. They would never grow old. They would never know how much people loved them.

Now, whenever I salute the flag, hear the National Anthem, or celebrate a patriotic holiday, I think of them. I have their names written in my calendar so I can be reminded of them. I try to live my life to the fullest because they can’t. I work on being a better Soldier in honor of them.

So as you celebrate today, put them, and their families, in your heart and prayers.

Pfc. Kristian Menchaca (23), Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker (25), and Spc. David J. Babineau (25), I will never forget you, and I am sorry you never made it home. I am sure God needed some warriors by his side though and I hope to meet you one day in Heaven.

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For some basic information on their story, click here.