31 July 2010
I just finished Mike Sielski's excellent book Fading Echoes: A True Story of Rivalry and Brotherhood From the Football Field to the Fields of Honor.
When I picked it up I wasn't sure if it was a football book or a military book. Turns out it is a little bit of both.
Mike tells the stories of two boys who grow up on the football fields of suburban Pennsylvania, with all its tradition, rivalry, and community. He tells about Colby and Bryan, two boys are a passingly familiar with each other, who play for rival high schools, and play football at a high level. We meet their families, their friends, teachers, and coaches. We ride the ups and downs of their senior seasons and beyond.
Both boys have drive, determination, and leadership abilities that set them apart. We follow them as they grow into young men, struggling to find their paths in life and in football. They play football in college with varying degrees of success until they find the curtain closing on their football lives. Bryan and Colby must find their way as men in their post football careers.
For both Bryan and Colby, the path led to service in the post-9/11 military. Brian became an Lt in the Marine Corps. Colby became an Army officer and an Airborne Ranger.
As family and friends adjust to the mixture of pride and fear having a loved one in uniform brings, fate drops both men in the sands of Iraq.
Bryan Buckley made it back to Doylestown, PA.
1Lt Colby Umbrell did not.
As a community comes together to mourn and remember Colby in the fields, bars, and classrooms that helped build both young men, we are reminded that each man and woman in the service is more than their uniform.
Everyone has a story and the uniform is only a part.
1Lt Colby Umbrell has a story and the stone in Arlington National Cemetery is only one part of it.
Mike Sielski helps tell us the rest.
In a way, this idea is why I blog. Bestie, Bestie in Law, and I all have stories as well. Someone has to tell them. Someone has to tell the stories. Good on Mike Sielski for telling this one.
27 July 2010
I am recently back from a cross country road trip with friends, which was a fantastic and badly needed vacation.
One of the goals of the road trip was to get away from everything I do and deal with on a day to day basis. No cell, no email, no news.
I also took a break from all things war-related, as much as that is possible with Bestie still over there.
What I learned is that the war, the wars, are in inescapable.
A lot is made about how much this war is different from others, how detached the general population is, how the American public isn't at war, the military is. That is true to an extent. What I found on my road trip is that while America generally may be able to ignore the war, it has slowly become a part of the fabric of a thousand small communities.
It is in new, shiny signs that declare a patch of interstate or highway a memorial to a LCpl, a Pfc, a Sgt in Illinios, Missouri, and Kansas. It is in the newly unveiled GWOT memorials that have sprung up in front of VFW posts and downtown next to WWII and Vietnam memorials.
It is in the somber passage of family and friends headed to a funeral in a city in Colorado on the day I passed through. A Marine was laid to rest and I couldn't help but think of Bestie. May you rest in peace, Cpl. Harris.
In a few months, a few years, maybe there will be a stretch of highway bearing his name.
Maybe there will be a banner with his picture on it in a town just off the interstate, his name added to the list on the plaque honoring his state's lost in the rest stops.
These wars are a part of us now.
18 July 2010
On vacation and catching up on my reading. Read a DH Lawrence piece that was recommended to me and this quote stood out:
"DH Lawrence: "The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer...it has never yet melted."
Too bad I found that after the 4th of July festivities.
02 July 2010
It is easy to forget what it took to get a holiday on the 4th of July. It is remarkable when you think about it. A group of people came together and did more than talk about how they wished the world to be. They took their beliefs about limited, representative government, about faith, tolerance, humanity and unity, and actually made that world happen.
Think about how much courage it took to sign that Declaration of Independence. By signing their names on that document, they became wanted men. The King wouldn't have minded at all if each one of them was killed for their rebellion. It is breath-taking. Yet these men and women of the not yet free United States of America stood together. They fought a battles they probably shouldn't have won. Yet, they did.
The Founders saw their vision to fruition. They achieved their freedom and generations of Americans have fought to keep it through numerous challenges.
As I prepare to enjoy my family and a long weekend, I remember the men and women who helped make this nation happen. I also remember the men and women who have taken the torch and defend our nation today. We will save a plate and a lawn chair at the fireworks for our friends who are in harm's way and can't be here to celebrate with us. Miss you. You are in my prayers.