I hope that some of you remember one of the guys that I was deployed with, nicknamed Buckets. We gave him that nickname one day as we were commenting on his resemblance to a Keebler elf. Then we got on the internet and looked up the names of the Keebler elf's and we came up with Buckets.
He bought a motorcycle when we got home from AssCrackIstan, and not too long ago he was riding it, he t-boned a car, flew right over the hood, and died. Unfortunately for him he didn't die instantly. He hung on for about a week before a cracked skull did him in.
So that's him. His name was Harry. He was 26 years old.
Not to mention, in addition to being a soldier he was also a cop. Now I don't know how many of you know this but my father (who died when I was 3) was also a cop. And I don't know if you know this or not, but death is a big deal to cops and soldiers. A cop and a soldier dying is about the biggest deal.
Pipes, drums, corridors of honor, uniforms, casket guards, flag draped coffins, 21 gun salutes, Amazing Grace on bagpipes, Taps on a bugle, honor guards, flyovers, Patriot Riders, cop cars, fire engines, military trucks, and all the pomp and circumstance that one funeral could possibly generate.
Throw all this together and you have me crying like a little girl for hours on end.
I could go on and on about this guy. He was definitely one of the few that I could say that if I had one, I would allow to date my sister. Personally, that's about the highest compliment I could ever give a guy.
Suffice it to say that it hurt...a lot, and for a long time. Hence my lack of writing.
Nevertheless, I dried my tears, picked myself up and got on with my life. Then the mom called and told me that Memorial Day was here and we had to do the Cemetery 500. (my completely inappropriate name for the rounds we make to the graves of all the veterans in my family to put flags and flowers and things on their graves.)
Ugh, really Mom? Do we have to do this now?
To which she replied, "Yes, its Memorial Day now get in your car and come pick me up and quit acting like a little girl!"
That's my Mom!
So we made the rounds, dropped a flag here, a flower there and around the bend we came to the final turn which was dear old Dad's grave.
Luckily for me, my Mom can't bear to be at my father's grave for very long. So its basically just a "jam the flag in the ground, say hello, cry, say goodbye" kind of thing.
This time however, I decided that I was going to do something to jerk a few tears out of...well me.
I finished putting the flag in front of my Dad's name, I stepped back, and as cliche as this is...I don't care.
I dug into my pocket and in front of God, my Mom, my Dad and all the rest of the stiffs I placed one of the medals I had won in Afghanistan on my Dad's headstone.
Bam! That's about all it took and the mom went from 0-60 in the waterworks department. Which we all know is not a good thing for me. Anytime my mom wants me to do something and I don't want to do it, she just fakes a few tears and I crack. Now try to think what she could get out of me when the tears are real.
Well I'll tell you what she gets. She gets me crying like a little girl again.
Being the emotional infant that I am, I hustle us both out of the cemetery and try to navigate the maze of roads that criss cross this garden of stone while wiping away a steady stream of tears behind my sunglasses.
And here comes the really strange part. I'd swear that I heard (or imagined myself) a voice in my head saying, "Come on back sometime, kid." More on this later.
Well those two things are the reason I haven't written in a while.
Now the 5th day. I am supposed to cultivate gratitude.
1st task is to make a list of 10 things I am grateful for...
- My family.
- My country.
- My job. (seen a lot of guys lose theirs, er I mean people.)
- All of you that read this.
- My brothers in arms.
- My health.
- My brain.
- My breath. (Means a lot after seeing a 26 year old in a coffin.)
- My education.
- My service. (Yeah, I am thankful for the fucking Army!)
Thank God they didn't want me to explain why I am thankful for each of those. This could've gone on for days.
Step 2 is to say thank you to 3 different people today.
I hit the mom with a thank you when she bought me 10 Arizona Iced Tea's today. Out of the blue.
I hit the brother with a thank you when he helped me load some shit I left at mom's house in my car.
Finally, I hit an inmate with a thank you when he swept and mopped the floor. (What can I say I worked today, I don't come into contact with normal people during the day.)
Then I said thanks to two people who can't say your welcome.
To Harry, I said thanks for being the guy that kept me laughing regardless of how many explosions were going off. Thanks for being there when the world was literally falling down around our heads. Thanks for riding with all of us for the entirety of our time in hell...
To my Father, I said thanks for loving mom so much. I said thanks for being a man worth looking up to. I said thanks for being a part of so many wonderful stories that I've been hearing since I could talk. I said thanks for loving me so much that you slept underneath my crib when mom wasn't home because you were afraid you wouldn't hear me crying. I said thanks for being my father even if it was only for a little while.
I think I may come on back sometime. Sit down and talk to you for a while. Please for my own sanity's sake keep your responses to yourself.
I love you Mom...