Remember my Marine friend Mike, who wrote this….he is back by popular demand with another great guest post about life. (Turn the music down)
Thoughts for the day
Last week my dad and I played golf on the course here on base. The great thing about this game is you never know who you'll be paired with. We drew a single player that morning. I introduced myself to him as he pulled up in his cart. He likewise introduced himself as Aaron. His voice was, well, Elmer Fudd-ish. "BwootifuI day to pway gwawf." I knew he was a fellow Marine without having to ask. The hair cut said that. As men often do to each other, we usually--and immediately--ask each other what the other does, fairly--or unfairly--sizing up and evaluating each other based on our chosen professions. As if our profession in any way defines who we really are. So I avoided the familiar question, "What do you do?"
Having previously worked in surgery for almost ten years, I'd seen enough tracheotomies to know the scar at the bottom of his neck had been one done in a hurry and not with an instrument really sharp enough to do the job. Amateurish even. After playing the first hole it was obvious the speech impediment was physical tongue-tying, vice the type often seen with partially deaf individuals or those born with one. Clearly he had no hand-eye coordination issues besides not being able to putt better than I could, thankfully.
Sober golf players tend to not visit a whole lot except on the tee box. We were all focused on the task at hand. Marines typically size each other up by asking what units they are in, where they've deployed to, battles fought in, etc. It took us until at least the back nine to get to all that. We had been in some of the same places at the same time. He pulled up his shirt to show me his entry wound just below the left rib cage, and the typical midline incision scar that accompanies such gunshot wounds. That one was courtesy of the invasion of Iraq. A few years later he'd join the Marine Corps’ first Special Operations Battalion and deploy to Afghanistan twice.
That trip to Afghanistan in 2009 would account for the tracheotomy scar. He was crossing open terrain when he got shot in the face by a sniper. Fortunately, it impacted him in the left jaw bone. Unfortunately, the fragmentation of the bullet pulverized his tongue and internal carotid artery. After being shot, Aaron sprinted 400 yards to the corpsman’s location so he could render first aid to him. The corpsman performed a hasty tracheotomy on him so he could adequately breathe until he got medevac’d. Aaron will medically retire sometime in the next year with a 100% disability. He’s married but no kids yet. He married before his first trip to Afghanistan. “She stuck around after I got shot. Guess I married the right one.” Indeed. He works private security details from time to time, gouging them for hundreds of dollars a day for VIPs because he’s got a special ops background and is no stranger to a gun fight. In his time off he’s taken up golf. Aaron’s not sure what the future holds. But right now he’s just trying his best to enjoy life. “Twice was enough.” Getting shot and nearly dying that is. Another wounded warrior story which, outside of family and a few close friends (and occasional golf partner), no one will ever know. I thought the same thing a few weeks ago when I was awakened in the dark hours of a Saturday with a text notification from CNN that 22 SEALs had been killed in a helicopter crash. I looked at my watch and started doing the mental math: That got reported at least six hours after the fact.24 hours to gather remains. 48-72 hours to get them out of country and to Dover AFB. Next of kin will be notified by the end of the day, if not first thing Sunday morning. They try to do death notifications all at once. The logistics of that would be a nightmare. 3-5 days for remains identification and funerals the week following. I know this process all too well. 22 SEALs dead. One or two is acceptable—militarily speaking of course. It’s the risk we accept. But not 20 at a time. These guys don’t grow on trees. Who were they? Where were they from? What were their stories? They’re certainly not the sum of their medals. Only through the tears of those who knew them can even we get a glimpse.And it’s hard not to stereotype about what type of people they were. After all, probably 20% of active forces could be special ops. Less than 10% will apply. 5% will make the screening cut and they’ll cull that down to less than 1% by the end of training. Why? Because of all the missions that can fail, theirs can’t. Athletes they may have been, but that’s not what makes them great or heroic. If it was, every star athlete out of college would be recruited for special ops. It’s their heart and mind that make them great. They were everyday people from anywhere towns asked to do astonishing missions under extraordinary circumstances so everyday people from anywhere towns can live their ordinary lives. I doubt many standing in football stadiums the past two weeks(or the coming months), watching the NFL circus unfold into the regular season, gave any thought to the security of this nation; that a couple ordinary guys from Shreveport, LA put a bullet hole through a terrorist’s head half-way around the world so Americans wouldn’t have to worry about a bomb disrupting the regular season. We Americans are fickle. The economy goes to hell and we’re worried about standard of living in our retirement years. Meanwhile the Constitution gets shredded, weakened or re-legislated with no one reading the contents of a bill. The normalcy bias is killing Americans—“Things can’t really be this bad. It’ll get better.” But it doesn’t. So nothing gets done. It’s a state of unbelief. And it’s paralyzing. We need a battlefield lesson. When trapped in a cross-fire you move or get killed. Stay put and you die. SEALs know this lesson. They’re dying so we can enjoy the ideals of freedom printed on a piece of parchment signed in the year of our Lord, 1787—the Constitution. I’d challenge you to do a couple of things. 1) Get to know your warriors and their families. Not all military life is glorious or affordable. They’ve been given a tough assignment, by us. They aren’t nameless, faceless anybodies without families. They bleed and sometimes die. Not always of their own decision. Read a book about a battle, recent or back to our nation’s birth. Understand what they go through and what we’ve asked them and their families to sacrifice. If you live in an area where there is a military base, seek their friendship. If not, stop by the local recruiting station—the most thankless job in the military—and thank them. 2) Get involved. Don’t let your freedoms be destroyed by incompetence or pride. Both get you killed on the battlefield. Both will get your freedoms taken. There’s no interest like self-interest. If you care about something, engage your Congressman. If you don’t, no one else will and they’ll make dangerous assumptions about your lack of assertion. 3) Live like today actually counts for eternity. Be quick to apologize when you are wrong and take less than your share of the credit when it comes to glory. There’s a Marine helicopter squadron whose motto is, “Give a @hit.” Great motto. Act like you care. Think. Decide. Act… Love. Eat. Pray…and thank God you weren’t born in Libya. Our country has been blessed with much. So much is required of us to maintain what was handed to us. Statistics show that those who inherit large sums of money are prone to squander it quickly because they have no idea the sacrifice with which it was obtained. Please don’t do that to your freedoms handed to you by the lives of so many. We threw tea in a harbor once because of tyranny. What will you do to keep tyranny, disguised as law, at bay? Just remember, a couple of boys from Shreveport, and other places, continue to hook and jab with an enemy to keep you sleeping peacefully in your tempurpedic at night. So that when you awaken, you have the moral strength and intestinal fortitude to fight peacefully to keep your rights, and the peace of mind to enjoy them.
I love you Mike McClendon and thank god that 20 years ago God allowed our paths to cross and then connect…You are one of my heroes.
I am a wife to Jack, Mom to Greg and Amanda, Mother-in-law to Micah and Dana. Grammy to Parker, Jack, Austin and Grayson, which just happens to be the best job I have EVER had.
I have owned Baskets and Bows for the past 17 years, which primarily is a gift basket business year around and a Holiday Decorating service for 3 months out of the year.
I live in Louisiana. I am an admitted Christmas and Disney addict! Your interest in my "tree decorating" business, on my family blog, Teresa's Treasures, is the reason for this special blog. I plan to give you tips, pictures, and stories that will help you make your holiday decorating a bit easier and most of all MAGICAL. That's my goal for all my clients and I hope I can pass that on to you.
Feel free to email me any questions you may have. I will try my best to answer or help you solve decorating problems.
You may find the blog title strange if you have not been a reader of my family blog. Check out the link to MY FAMILY and I think you will understand. Ten years ago, just as the baby born in Bethlehem on Christmas Day changed my life, a Baby Boy named Parker radically changed our lives. Both of those babies are the best things that EVER happened to me. When Faith Hill sang this song last year, it just became my favorite. If music on the blog bothers you or you are not a Faith Hill fan, feel free to mute it on the player.