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This blog exists only as an archive. It is a journal that serves as a window into my life as a Marine combat veteran serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; it was written with no filter, no politics and no agenda. Please feel free to follow my journey from beginning to end. Welcome to my life.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

For the Glory of Our Dead


Tonight my battalion held a memorial ceremony for the brothers that we lost while in Iraq.

How do I even begin a post like this?? We lost 8 men in combat operations. Tonight their family and friends came to Twentynine Palms to help us remember them. But what can we possibly do that will ease the pain of their passing? There is no salve that will help close the wounds of their loss.

I think about two of those eight men every day. Walking down streets or through the mall I see Windsor and Howey’s faces. Whether it’s a brief glimpse in a store window that barely registers in my brain or a similarly dressed 19 or 20 year old that I actually come close to walking up to and inspecting closer. I think about Windsor when I pass by the barracks that he and I were roommates at when we first got to the fleet, or the sand pit where I watched Howey choke out Bullard during close-combat training. I didn’t know if I was unique or weird for these things, but, after talking to the other guys, I know that it’s common throughout the platoon.

Events today opened the floodgate of memories and emotions surrounding their deaths. Today I saw Kyle Rosenberger, or the former Sgt. Rose, for the first time since Howey was killed. The last time I saw him he was stomping back on a broken leg from the Humvee that Howey was driving and that was hit with an IED. After handing him a radio handset I ran across the bridge and never saw him again. He had a piece of shrapnel the size of Texas go into his leg and break his bone, he was evacuated that night. Tonight I saw an M-16 with a fixed bayonet upside down in a sandbag, adorned with a helmet and garnished with combat boots and dog tags, images of our memorials for Windsor and Howey in Iraq wouldn’t escape my mind.

Then there are the families. God bless them. I mean that with all of my heart. All my pain is trivial compared to what they have endured. I know what my own mother went through and I was fortunate to come home. Seeing them tonight just ripped my heart out. What do you say to the mother of a fallen comrade? Sorry? Thank you? Your son was a great man? All things that are true and from the heart, but certainly one could do better than that. But I failed again to come up with words that were worthy of them.

Tonight I saw over 1,000 Marines, seasoned fighters, combat veterans choked to tears as we revisited the memory of our friends. We know the sacrifice they made, a sacrifice that is the bedrock of this nation. These brave men, may their memories live on forever in the hearts of those they knew and in the thoughts of those who didn’t have the pleasure.

To Howey, Windsor and the six other brave souls who gave their lives with us in Iraq, I leave you with these words by William Shakespeare.

“We few, we precious few, we band of brothers. For he who sheds his blood with me shall forever be my brother.”

Frater Infinitas my friends. Brothers Forever.

21 comments:

  1. Our hearts and prayers are with you, the friends, and families mourning the loss of these American heros

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  2. Beautifully said! What a tribute to the courage and honor of our Marines; those who came home and those who didn't. You see, every one of you answered the call. It takes something special to stand up and say "take me." It is that same something special that bonds Marines (and other service members) into brothers-in-arms, and allows them to remain proud of their brothers, even in grief. God Bless and keep all our fighting forces safe!

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  3. I'm sure it was a beautiful and moving ceremony as it should be, these fine Marine's gave their lives for a greater good that many can not even imagine. It wasn't a "war for oil" or "imperialistic agression" that killed them but an enemy with no honor. These brave men are truly the best in our society, for the best in our society are not found in the ivory towers of acadamia, or protesting the latest "outrage" of the government, while others complain and debate they are serving quietly, regardless of their personal feelings.


    They are serving quietly in dark caves or scorching deserts. Carrying packs that weigh twice their own weight. Climbing mountains waist deep with snow to secure a target. Fording rivers and streams of something other than water. Living for days on end with no relief and many times eating more sand than food with their meals. Sweating and grunting with every step along the way, securing our freedoms and extending them to others less fortunate but no less deserving.



    They live beside their brothers and will fight to the death to never let them down, but their cower in fear of an angry mother, for they understnad the meaning of respect and service.



    These fine men mean everything to us for they are our future and our past. They are the ever present hope for the present for they are willing to sacrifice more than most people will ever imagine, and many of us would follow them into hell with a can of gasoline for we understand the meaning of their loss.



    From this day forward let us always remember them with a toast of "Absent Companions" before we break bread with our fellow warriors and remember that they gave their all, so that we can live in freedom.



    OORAH MARINES!

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  4. God Bless You Jake!

    This was, by far, the most emotionally moving post I have read, ever.

    Hold your head high, because you are a HERO!

    Lisa Melton

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  5. Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/07/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

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  6. Well said. I'm not even going to pretend to know what it feels like to be one of the ones who "made it". It's got to be bittersweet though. Thank you for your updates.

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  7. Thank you for such a moving post. I had to delurk long enough to say that I think Abraham Lincoln pretty much wrote of this situation better than any other I know of in a letter to a grieving family...

    Executive Mansion,
    Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

    Dear Madam,--

    I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

    I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

    I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

    Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

    A. Lincoln


    My very sincere condolences to the family, friends and comrades in arms of these very special people. Thank you for your service.

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  8. wexbfI wish I could think of something profound to say Jake, but your post said it enough. There's a debt we can never repay.

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  9. I don't know how I got that first word in there. 9/11/01 is heavy on my mind this morning

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  10. I have no words, to express my thanks, for this entry. My heart is heavy. We owe all our military, so much...

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  11. Brother, I've been blessed not to have lost anyone close to me on any of my trips out there. When people say they'll take a bullet for someone, that's because they don't want to live with the pain of the loss. Hang in there and I'm sorry you lost some that were close to you and that their ghosts are still haunting you. It will be a while before they move on.

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  12. Your post honors and respects the memory of those who didn't make it home. Thank you for posting this.

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  13. Wanted to share this link:

    http://www.militarycity.com/valor/honor.html

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  14. Windsor and Howey will never get old bro, and you will carry them on and build your life of honor and service upon their shoulders.

    They will be guarding the streets of heaven for us.

    Semper Fidelis and meaning it!

    (welcome home bro)

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  15. A great tribute to your fallen brothers, Jake. I can't even begin to imagine what you & everyone else over there have been through, but thanks to your posts we can begin to get some idea. There's a song entitled "Here's to the Heroes", by Mario Frangoulis, which conveys a great feeling of thanks. Everytime I hear it I picture the brave men & women of our armed forces. It should be played at every memorial. Thanks for giving me this chance to respond.
    Greg C.

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  16. Marine:

    Watch yourself and the Marines under your charge. It is very easy, in such times, for the seeds of self pity to sprout up along with the grief.

    That destructive and corrosive addiction has destroyed many a good man.

    I do not mean that, in anyway, as an accusation against you or your Marines. But it is something that must be watched out for and addressed aggressively when it first shows signs of taking root.

    To you specifically:

    Thank you. Not only for what you've endured and suffered in our name, but also for the example you set with each and every post.

    You demonstrate the true spirit of Our Marine Corps.

    You remind us, with each post, the integrity and strength that makes Semper Fi more than just a slogan.

    Sometimes, all a man can do is to grit his teeth, set his eyes on the horizon and remember his 5th General Order. Keep the faith Marine.

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  17. Jake, thanks for your blog. In your own humble way you failed to mention the parents and family that thanked you for your writing. I know Nathan Windsor's Mom and Grandmother said thank-you. The whole family reads your blog -- parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, nephews, nieces, uncles and friends. Thank you for remembering Nathan and Blake. Thanks to all the marines who said hello and shared a story about Nathan or just stood by us as we remembered him. We are proud to be part of the extended USMC family. We think of you every day as we check you blog. Be safe.

    David

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  18. Wow, that was a very moving blog you wrote. It was a good healing experience getting to talk to and meet a lot of men who served with Blake and Nathan. I saw you there but didn't get a chance to talk to you. I pray for you and all the men of your Unit every night. I thank god there are men like you Nathan, and Blake willing to draw the line and protect our Nation!

    ~Joseph Chavez "Lanucana"

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  19. Thanks for the kind comments about Windsor & Howey, I work with Nathan's dad and know it means a lot to him. Your words are very touching.

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