MEMORIAL DAY IN AFGHANISTAN |
May 29, 2012
This is Jon Stiles‘ fourth Memorial Day. I’ve already told how I feel about Jon’s passing, being taken from us on November 13, 2008. Many of us know someone who has offered their all and have paid that price in the name of our Republic and what it stands for. Jon is, to me, the embodiment of that level of sacrifice.
Many use Memorial Day to honor all those who serve and served, but it is not my day, nor is it likely to be. Even when I shuffle off this mortal coil, this will not be my day. I survived. Jon wagered his life in the service of our country, and his price was accepted, taken, the accounts adjusted to add one more to the roll of those to whom this day belongs. His life and all the days he may have lived otherwise were added to the price tag of our nation.
How much is just one of your days on this earth worth? How many did he lose? We shall never know, but if just one day is worth any effort to you, I can say with some certainty that had his life not been torn from him, Jon had many more in store. He was a vibrant man, full of life. He did not go as a lamb to slaughter but as a man who faced into the hurricane and stood firm against its force knowing full well what he could face, the power of it, and that he could have chosen to sit by idly. He was just one in a sea of such lives, of days given over to a purpose greater than one’s self. There have been hundreds of thousands of others in our nation’s history. But when I think of such sacrifice, I think of Jon.
He was my friend. He was the most awesome husband to his wife that I have ever met. He was not just a good guy; he was a model. He lived principles. He had built, with his own hands, much to live for. He wasn’t full of potential, he was full of achievement, courage, virtue and love. He was a hell of a man.
It has been said that the loss of one life is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic. Jon is my anti-statistic. He is the shock, the sadness, the tragedy, and the elevation of what the rest of us do through the price paid for it. The days he will not live, and has not lived, add responsibility to the rest of us -- to me -- to do something just a little better, to care about what I’m doing here a little more. What I am doing here is not cheap, though I will not have that price torn from me. No, I will go home and see my kids. I will go home and live on. Jon went home to rest in our soil and left his price on the table here. There have been many others who have lost their lives here. The 37th Brigade has added three more to that total. Our FOBs and camps are named for a few of those who served and gave here. There are many others who have paid the ultimate price who shall not be honored with the naming of a FOB or camp or any such accommodation.
Memorial Day is about so much more than the dead of this war. It is about the legion of Americans who have gone before, who now rest in cemeteries in the United States (not all are in Arlington), and in Europe, in the Pacific, in Korea and Vietnam. It is not for the veterans passed, but for those who gave the last full measure in combat, whose lives were not given but taken by enemies of the United States. They stood between those enemies and their children, their mothers and fathers, their grandparents, their neighbors and friends and all who could not or would not go to stand as a human shield in the path of the flood of history. They changed the path of that flood, and for those whose conflicts are resolved, they changed that path for the better.
Jon also stood in the path of this flood and was swept into history with it. What remains to be seen is if we have the courage to see through what his blood has purchased; that we do not sell his life cheaply. He paid the price, but ultimately we determine the value of that purchase.