After Tom passed away, there were an immense range of emotions that I felt. I was hurting, physically and mentally. I was having dreams, the most vivid being following his body bag, which was an American flag, out of the hospice unit while taps were being played. His nurses stood in the hallway as I continued to follow him out to the waiting car that would take him for cremation. I had this same dream so many nights.
I felt so vulnerable, lonely, lost and naïve. How I missed him! I missed being held and I missed feeling his breath on my neck and a soothing hand rubbing my back telling me everything was OK and not to worry.
I slept in our king size bed and sometimes felt like the tiniest fish lost in this big sea of foam. There was no longer anyone to reach for or to have talks with before sleep. There was no one to kiss good night, wish Sweet dreams and say I love you. The only thing I had left was his pillow that he had taken into hospice, which I treasured and slept with every night.
It had been about six months since He passed away. I had never removed his pillowcase. I know it sounds totally disgusting, but I just wasn’t ready to do that, not yet. In my mind it just seem to keep him there with me, just a bit longer. I began to look at that pillowcase almost as symbolic and felt and knew in my mind, that it was time. I knew that in order to start my healing process, I would have to let go. I would always have our memories and special moments tucked away in my heart forever. I arose early the next morning, took his pillow, hugged it tight, And while tears rolled down my face, I delicately removed his pillowcase. It was now time for me to move to the next phase of my life which God had already planned and I would gladly accept.
Memorial Day is a day to remember the brave men and women who sacrificed everything for their brothers and sisters, and the country we love. Names like Gary Collins, Mark Vasquez, Joe Lister, Ryan Young, and Jarrod Black might be just another name to most. These men are my brothers, and have paid in full for you and everyone else in this country. Joe Dunigan, Chris Hill, Chris Ramirez, Daniel Shepherd, and John Tipton are more names for you to remember. These men died for us while living in terrible conditions during some of the most brutal fighting in Iraq. There are no words to describe these men like Charles Price, Jacob Molina, or Craig Gaglia. These are men among men, and the best of those men. They have laid down their lives so the people of this great nation can enjoy the wonderful freedoms generations have fought to earn and preserve.
The names of Brian Hall, Gary Woods, Jason Pautsch, Edward Forrest, and Bryce Gautier will slip your mind after hearing their names called, but never forget their purpose, and never forget their sacrifice. We honor them not just on Memorial Day but every day, by remembering what they have done out of love for you and the freedom that flourishes within our borders. We should all fight for the men like Michael Volfe, Heath Shubert, Nathan Smith, Adam Sines, Christian Hill, and Nikolas Timmins who left the war but it never left them. They left this earth too early. The 22 Veterans a day who take their own lives is 22 too many.
All of these Heroes deserve to be remembered. I am here with my family everyday because of their sacrifice. You are able to be free, pray, protest, and choose the life you want because of these men, and countless others. These men are my brothers, and I thank them for what they have done for us. I will never forget them, I miss them every day, and I will always honor them with my love and my life.
My sniper team which consisted of my spotter John and I conducted operations on what seemed like a large island in between Fallujah and Rhamadi Iraq. We spent a lot of time searching for enemy mortar teams and high value targets in the area. On a night mission we were moving through a wood line that was on the edge of the Euphrates River and heard a noise in the river. We took a lot of pride in the fact that we had never been spotted and although the enemy was searching us out, they never had any luck. The noise sounded a little like a boat. We froze in our positions intently listening for other sounds. Has someone found us or heard us from the river? As a couple of splashes rang as loud as thunder and we quietly moved to a covered position. These new sounds are footsteps in the edge of the river. These footsteps were moving and getting closer. We have positioned ourselves so the only way anyone can get near us is to move in front of us. Reality was setting in, and my heart began to pound hard.
In a normal gun fight, it usually happens without notice or hesitation, and as a sniper you have complete control of the fight. Now I have time to think about our situation, and it is not good. John has an M-4 with a 203 grenade launcher, and I have a most impressive bolt action rifle. It is the best tool for its intended purpose, but not a gunfight at 10 feet. We are not wearing body armor or helmets, and preparing to engage at least a couple of men with AK-47s. So the reality is, we are in trouble. The footsteps are getting closer and my heart is pounding harder. Once they round the end of the brush it is game on. My rifle is up and John is at the ready. At that moment we hear a strange squawking noise. It was loud, and we weren’t sure what to make of it. We then saw a large crane come around the corner and make that squawking noise again. I almost yelled at that stupid bird, and I still think it might have been justified if I would have shot it.
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