This weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and I see a lot of people proudly remembering their father or their brother (or both) who served in the military, and for that I do thank them for being willing to go into harm’s way. But this Memorial Day post is different. THIS Memorial Day post is specifically to remember the very high cost, and to honor two men who both paid the ultimate price even though one is still living. or privacy sake I’m going to call them by their initials: TL and KT.
TL grew up in a small town in west Texas, next door to a beautiful, spunky blonde girl, J. He had a crush on her his whole life, and they did everything together (much like Forrest Gump and his Jenny). TL was a Christian man through and through–a farmer by trade and a country gentleman at heart–and when the day came, TL married the love of his life, J, and he joined the Marines. He did well in the service, and it wasn’t too long until another little life was going to join TL and JL’s family. To his unending joy, it was a son, and TL was beaming proud of that boy. He did EVERYTHING with that kid and he was the spitting image of his dad (expect prettier because of JL). Shortly thereafter, he was sent “to the sandbox” as they say. TL was Master Sargent for his men, and although I’m no military expert, I know that means he was responsible for them. He trained them; he made tactics and plans; and if someone was hurt or made a mistake, he was responsible for them. He took it VERY seriously, and although he always maintained his Christianity and led his men to turn to God, he also tipped back a beer with the guys when they needed to have some fun or relieve some stress. He was also the guy who got online to his JL every day, emailing or leaving her love notes on a forum she liked. He was SOOOOO faithful to her that he was a great example to all his men. And to add to his joy, his lovely bride had another surprise for him–she was having twins! And this time…daughters!
Then came the fateful day. There was a report that there were some guns or weapons at a certain location, so TL and his guys were supposed to go and see if there really were weapons and if so, seize them. They got to the site, and it was an ambush. Most of his guys fought their way out but one of the newer guys was held at knife-point by an enemy so TL went after him. There was fighting and shooting, the newer guy was released and got away, and almost all at once a grenade went off and TL was shot point blank in the head. He lost both of his legs and one arm, but TL did not die. He said, “Am I going to be okay?” and they went NUTS to get him back here to the states alive.
For months TL was in the hospital. JL was at his side constantly. For months we prayed and prayed for him just to live, and by goodness he did not just give up. NO SIR! He tried and tried but eventually it was too much to overcome and he did die. This was tragic because he was SUCH a good man that the world was less for losing him. But sadly it doesn’t end there.
After TL’s death, JL just wasn’t the same. She had known him her WHOLE LIFE and she just had so much difficulty trying to even deal with her grief much less trying to get on with life or having hope. Her kids needed her but she just was changed–not herself. Those of us who loved her tried to ask her to go to counseling and tried to see if her close family would help her go, but she would not. Of course, that’s part of what makes her so lovely–she was SO strong and proud of herself! Well she was struggling and sometimes the struggle is stronger than we are. One night there was an incident outside a bar–there was drinking involved and it was late and things were said and severe harm was done. After that she … well she broke; and shortly thereafter dear, beautiful JL took her own life.
This left their children orphans. The girls–again they were spitting images of their mom with the guts and goofy grin of their dad–had barely known their dad, and they missed their mom but they were young and primarily spared from understanding what was going on. But their son–the boy whom TL had ADORED and spent so many hours fishing with and plowing with and doing “man stuff” with–well he saw his dad die…slowly…and then saw his momma torn to pieces by her grief. He was old enough to know and remember and understand a little, and yet not old enough to know how to handle it or deal with it well. He lashed out and got violent, and rather than help the darn Child Services took him away from everyone he knew and loved! He got worse and worse because no one would really treat HIM and get to know HIM and help him deal with it–and in rage at just the world in general, he also took his own life.
In contrast to TL, KT was one of those guys who was sort of a “bad boy.” He got married young, was a bit of a rebel, but he loved his wife, loved his kids, and joined the Marines so he could take care of them. He served for more than a decade–and he had the privilege of being with TL so he learned how to be a great soldier and how to be a good man, and life was pretty good. He was deployed “to the sandbox” with TL, but his wife was pregnant with child #4 and had high hopes this would be his last deployment.
Then came the fateful day that HIS life was shattered. His wife said she didn’t love him anymore and had been seeing another man. While he was deployed she had grown lonely and turned to someone else. Now, inside KT something broke–temporarily he lost his mind. This is pretty typical for the loyal spouse to “flip out” when they first find out and usually people can work past it, but KT was a soldier thousands of miles away from his family, and when he flipped out he did what he was trained to do–pulled out a gun. He went to his commander’s office, drew his weapon, and said “I need to get home right now, so write me out a leave so I can go.” I think anyone in that situation might react that way, and his commander wasn’t going to press charges because he *knew* KT…but the higher ups pressed charges.
From that moment his life was shattered. He was sent to prison for year–military prison. We trained him to be a soldier and a killer, and in his moment of flipping out he did was he was trained to do; yet rather than help him to get through the infidelity and get counseling, he was sent to prison. He was dishonorably discharged so all his service was for naught. His wife left him and there was nothing he could do–and it broke his heart. He lost his children. He began to drink heavily, and when he did get parole one of the conditions was that he had to remain sober. Shortly after release though he was imprisoned again for getting drunk. He said time and again that he wouldn’t “do time” again, and that is the last anyone has heard of KT.
KT was not perfect but he was a human just like you or I, who loved his wife, found out she was unfaithful, and freaked out. But for him, it destroyed him.
THAT is the cost folks. It is too high. On Memorial Day, I urge you all to REMEMBER.