One of the 1st questions I am asked is, ‘Did you know anyone on the wall?’
Yes and no. I knew the stories of many before I began memorizing the wall. I had heard the story of CIA Agent Johnny Spann who was the first KIA in country in 2001. I had read the story of Lt Michael Murphy, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, Petty Officer Danny Dietz and Petty Officer Matthew Axelson in the book Lone Survivor. I actually read this book while in Afghanistan.
I don’t have a close friend who is on the wall. On the other hand, they all feel like your brothers and sisters. Yet, there is one name on the wall that does have a unique meaning for me. I will withhold his name and the date of his death but he died on a road I had just been down days prior.
There was a route I must have taken 30-40 times on convoys to another base and just days before I had traveled down this road. On this particular day, this member of the US Army had his convoy struck with a vehicle born IED that killed 6 (1 US and 5 local nationals.) This was my journal entry from that day:
Today was a rough day. A US convoy consisting of 2 up armored suburbans left (base name omitted) and went to (base name omitted). On the way back from (base name omitted) a minibus pulled in between the two vehicles and detonated. 1 X US KIA, 1x US WIA, 5 X LN KIA.
The pictures were horrific. I don’t know if I will ever get (description omitted) out of my mind, the massive suburban on it’s side.
Today as I went to my room to check my hotmail I must confess I felt guilty. I felt I was being selfish when this soldier had just lost his life. Somewhere in the U.S. today a mother, brother and maybe a wife is getting the tragic news that will alter their lives forever.
At shift change when I briefed the IED to Sgt. Love and Sgt. Morris I felt my voice crack even though they didn’t notice I am sure. MA1 Bebout and Sgt Macaskel where at (base omitted) just 20-30 minutes before the attack. Bebout joked it off as he does everything by saying, ‘Welcome to my comic book life!’ Macaskel I spotted sitting cleaning his weapon.
It is good to clean your weapon and even necessary but we both know they are useless against an IED. Macaskel was called in to brief the route status. He is a good and brave guy but I sensed nervousness in his voice. But who can blame him! We lost one today and that sucks…..
That was my journal entry for that day. It was a significant day for me. Although I wasn’t as close as Bebout and Macaskel I had been down that road days before and then again days after. It is a roll of the dice and you wonder why it happens the way it does.
This last year as a I memorized the names on this wall, I didn’t allow myself to find the name of this man. I didn’t want emotion to get in the way of memorizing the 2,200 people. It wasn’t until I was completely finished memorizing this wall did I allow myself to look this man up.
I have since not only learned his name but read his story. He did indeed have a wife who was pregnant at the time with their first and only child.
This man is one of the reasons the wall was important to me. I wanted to honor him.