Monday, August 22, 2011

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.

mike and fam2

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.


Justabeachkat said...

WOW,what a message! Love it.


Heather said...

Such a beautiful message. God bless the men and women who fight day and night to keep our country safe. God bless their families who make sacrifices as well, when their loved ones are deployed or away for training. It's nothing to take for granted...

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I have a few heros in my family and I thank God for their protection. Thank you for sharing Mike's messages.

West Side of Straight said...

What a great message Mike!!!!! Bravo!!!! We pray daily for our Godson (in Afganistan - 3rd tour) and other men and women defending our country and our rights! Wish this blog message could be shared with all newspapers!!!!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Jo in MN
Two of our MN boys were in the group of 22 killed. You are right, they are from all over leave greiving families.
Thank you Teresa for your friend Mike.

Anonymous said...

For Pete's Sake, Mike, GET A BLOG!! Good stuff!!

I don't know if you can see it, but I'm giving you a standing ovation.

I'll be linking to this post. Thanks for sharing him, Teresa!

Anonymous said...

For Pete's Sake, Mike, GET A BLOG!! Good stuff!!

I don't know if you can see it, but I'm giving you a standing ovation.

I'll be linking to this post. Thanks for sharing him, Teresa!

Theresa said...

Dear Mike, I appreciate this message more than you will know! My 21 year old Marine Nephew is serving his 2nd tour in Afghanistan! He was one of the Marjah Marines and I am SO proud of him! I pray for his safety constantly and will be so happy to get him back home safely AGAIN!

My Grandchildren watch as I walk up to EVERY Man and Woman in uniform and say THANKS! One day at the Mall, my 15 year old Granddaughter, about 6 years old at the time... sat watching as I walked across to say THANKS to a young man in uniform! When I returned, she said, what did you say? I said "I just said Thank You"! She said how will they know what you mean, I said "THEY KNOW"! It's the little thank you's that mean a lot to those serving or who have served! We need to do more and more and more!

Thank you for this sweet message! It touched my heart! HUGS!

mississippi artist said...

A beautiful and truthful message. I wonder how many people meeting your golf partner will judge him as retarded or not worthy of their time because of his speech impediment? We are an uncaring people at times and don't look beyond what is right in front of us.Our nephew was killed in Afghanistan by a bomb-he left a young wife and less than a year old daughter, but of course my family is not the only one who has lost someone.Maybe things would change in Wahington if the Marines were running the countryy-just a thought.

Pam Burrow said...

WOW !! Loved it and am thankful too that your paths crossed and thay you share the good stuff !!
Mike is kind, Mike is smart and Mike is important !!

Grandma Bonnie said...

Thank you for the awesome post. I am always thankful to all the men and women who serve and their families that have sacrificed so much for our freedom. Thank you for bring to light to people who may know but do not think about this issue. I do know and understand the sacrifices. My son did 2 tours in Iraq. We are thankful to have him home with his daughters and wife. He is now serving as a State trooper. Thank you for your sacrifice!

Tania B said...

Inspirational post. Hello - I'm your newest follower from the Welcome Wednesday Blog Hop. Please follow me back and feel free to drop by anytime.



Bacardi Mama said...

Such a beautiful message!

Life,Twins,DramaQueen said...


New follower from the blog hop please come follow me back :)

Jennifer said...

Hello! I just followed your blog from the blog hop! I hope to see you over at Jennifer's Deals! www.jennifersdeals.blogspot.com

Terra said...

Mike is a hero and writes eloquently, and I am thinking about everything he wrote. I do take action from time to time; thank you all military who are keeping us safe. The guy he met on the golf course is another true hero. Blue Ribbon Moms gathered things for care packages for our soldiers and I contributed to that, things like hand wipes, kleenex, jerky, hard candy, etc.

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Wonderful message and beautiful family!
God's continued blessings and protection for this special Marine and all those in service...military personnel, police officers and firefighters...

Thank you for sharing this post.
Blessings & Aloha!

Mom of 12 said...

So glad there are those who are willing to put it on the line for all of us!