Friendships and shared tragedies!!


There isn’t too much on the news today about Iraq. CNN did mention a soldier was killed in Mosul today. Every time I hear about someone getting killed in Mosul, I start scouring the casualty reports to make sure it isn’t our little friend over there.

I am the oldest of six kids. When I was in my sophomore in year high school, my next sister was a freshman. I played basketball and softball. My sister was on the drill team. So we didn’t have any after school activities in common. But there was another girl, a friend of my sister, who played ball with me and was on the drill team with my sister. They were good friends.

I graduated from high school on June 7, 1967, enlisted June 14, 1967, and left for boot camp on June 21, 1967. I went to boot camp at Parris Island for eight weeks, had a short leave then went to San Diego for Ground Radio Repair training. I came back to Quantico the following August. I was there for a few months and then sent to school again at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey for Audio Visual repair for 4 months. When I got back to Quantico, my sister was there.

She had also joined the Corps a year later. Her friend also joined. Our three brothers were stationed at Fort Bragg. The youngest was an MP there and the other two were in the 82nd. The older of the two in the 82nd was also a Ranger. We had different interests so I didn’t see a lot of either of my sister or her friend. I saw even less of my three brothers.

Later, both my sister and her friend met someone and then they both had a son. My sister and her friend kept in touch a lot at first when they both returned home. But eventually they lost touch at times as each began to live their lives. The oldest of my younger brothers died from a rare type of cancer in the local VA hospital about a year after his EOL. He was the Ranger. He never made it to Nam, the cancer caused him to be hospitalized towards the end of his tour and he couldn’t go. Of course the Army didn’t find the cancer then. He was the long awaited first son in our family. The younger brother became a Deputy Sheriff after he left the military.

Both during and after the war and our service we had many discussions about the military. Of course, with “legs and jarheads” in the same household those discussions were often rowdy. Dad was in WWII in the Army so he added his two cents worth.

My sister’s son used to love to “egg” us all on. He loved to hear our stories. Somehow we all managed to remain stateside throughout our tours, much to my brothers dismay.  My sister’s friend’s husband was also in the Corps. I can imagine the discussions in their household. I imagine their son was equally entranced.

When both boys grew up they both went into service oriented professions. One became a Marine like his Mom and career Marine dad before him. The other became a police officer, as he said, “carrying on a family tradition!”

US Marine Corp

My sister’s friend’s son was sent to Iraq in 2003. SSgt. Donald May died March 25, 2003 when his tank went over an embankment into the Euphrates River and drowned along with the other tank’s occupants. He was 31 and her only child.

US Navy

After 9/11, my sister’s son joined the Naval Reserves to be ready in case his country needed him. In January, 2004, his unit was activated for deployment and sent to Kuwait. PO2 Michael J. Gray died on March 5, 2004 at 32 in Kuwait when two Iraqi rammed his vehicle from behind at about 100 mph. The driver of Mike’s vehicle made an illegal turn into the path of the on coming vehicle driven by the Iraqi.

Two friends went to school together, joined the military, had families at the same time, and both lost their only child, a son almost a year apart in this War. Both young men had children. Between the two families eight served their country. Two died while deployed, one died a year after his EOL of cancer, one earned numerous medals for bravery and rarely talked about the war [WWII]. Three generations of service, and both families lives were changed irrevocably forever! 

Life sometimes seems to be so unfair. But maybe God had a special plan for Michael and Donald. Maybe they both earned their place in heaven a little sooner than we would have liked because they had already spent their adult lives serving their country and community throughout their adult lives. Maybe that is also why my brother died so young.

I don’t really know. But hearing about the death in Mosul today and thinking about our friend there, it made me think about my sister, her friend, and how much they have both shared; and, how much they both lost. I also thought about my Mom and dad and what it must have been like for them to have five of us serving pretty much at the same time, and my sister’s friend’s parents.

Whatever the reason or inspiration, I truly believe that we would all do it all over again. Not because we love war or killing. We all hate war. But we all also were and are filled with a strong sense of duty, honor, and service to our country, to protect what we all hold dear. Are we special? No! We are and were very ordinary people. 

We were taught to love our family, respect our parents and elders, listen to God’s word, work for what you have and want, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and be proud of America and all it stood for, warts and all! It was not by any means a perfect time as the cultural movements of the 60’s showed us.

We went from “Amos and Andy” and “Father Knows Best” to “Good Times” and “All in the Family!” Despite it all, we all. for the most part, moved on to better, more tolerant  times. It truly was the “best of times and the worst of times!” But as is typical of our great nation, we got through it. Though there was a minority of those within our nation that worked to make us fail then, just as they are doing now we persevered. Those who would destroy us whether at home or abroad just can’t destroy our will! 

In the end, friendships, shared tragedies, and an insationable will to be free only serve to make us more determined and stronger than before!

[edited for errors and to re-write due to new information]

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~ by devildog6771 on March 13, 2005.

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