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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.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

February 18th

A couple of days ago I received a text message from a friend of mine. It read, "You better crack a beer open tonight, I hope I don't need to tell you why".

The text message was completely unnecessary. I absolutely knew why. February 18th marked one year since I was on a QRF mission with my squad, the night we rolled over an IED laid in by Iraqi insurgents, and the night Blake Howey was killed in that blast.

That event changed a lot of things for a lot of people. For me, it marked the first time that I ever saw combat, if that's what you want to call an IED blast. It was the first time I've ever had a friend die. It was the first time that I really truly feared for my life. It was the first time that someone has actually made an attempt to kill me. It was the first time that I ever wanted to actually make an attempt to kill someone else.

In about another week and a half I'll toast another beer to another friend, Nathan Windsor, who was killed in an ambush two weeks after Blake.

A year removed from these incidents, it still seems like it happened in another life. There is nothing I can say twelve months later to make the loss any easier for their families. Just know that earlier this week there was a flurry of text messages and phone calls reminding friends to raise their glass to a fallen brother.


  1. Sorry I missed your call today, I wish I had gotten to talk to you. Make sure to let me know if you ever have a long weekend..because I'm there! My thoughts and prayers go out to you and the rest of your guys this week and the weeks to come, as I'm sure lots of other peoples are as well.

    p.s. I played loaded questions again recently and guess whose name came up yet again! haha thanks dweeb! :)

  2. Wow, a sweet reminder of your dear friends, thx for sharing. I raise my glass also. I am at a loss for words to describe all I feel when I hear these stories, overcome with grief for their families, yet so incredibly proud of our soldiers, so much emotion for the losses, may God bless their families, and you also.

  3. Even though I didn't know your friends, I'd like to join others in lifting a toast to honor those lost. "To absent companions, may they rest in peace knowing they've given their all to protect friends, family, and our Nation."

  4. Jake, I feel your losses. Just recently two of my friends have lost people so close to them. One friend's dad passed away and another's grandfather in two days. Your friends were heroes. My prayers go out to you.

  5. Jake,
    It's Louie Hillman. I came across your story in the Comm Arts alumni newsletter. I just wanted to drop you a line and say hi. I have to say I think what you're doing is very heroic and just that it's very appreciated.

    Anyways, I saw your name and it reminded me of you, me, and Vic partying at your old house drinking whiskey and listening to country music on Thursday nights haha. Good times. And you can't forget some Halo sessions sprinkled in there.

    I graduated last spring. I'm a news reporter for FOX 11 in Green Bay. I love the job - miss school though.

    I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    My email is lou.hillman@wluk.com if you ever want to get a hold of me for anything.

    Great to hear you are doing well.