When We Die: Remembering
It’s that time of year again. November is always a weird month for me. It coincides with a number of powerful events in my life. Particularly that of losing a warrior I counted as my brother right before Veteran’s Day. While many save their remembering for Memorial Day, many of us remember year round. We visit our friends year round. This is how many of us remember (I know I won’t be able to cover everything people do to remember their loved ones, forgive me for that).
To wrap up this “When We Die” series, I’ve decided to add a fourth part. How do we remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice? My whole goal here is and always has been understanding. There has been this great divide between civilians and veterans for so long. We just don’t understand each other and maybe, just maybe our explanations, maybe if I do my brother’s justice in the written word we can shrink that divide.
Every November, I make the short trip down the road to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. There in the cemetery there, one of my best friends lays there. A marble headstone on the end of the row, there he lies. His row sits on top of a small rise and the fields of marble headstones blanket the emerald green grass below. I unload my car, a folding chair, a six pack of beer, and a small token to leave. I unfold the chair and open two beers, one for me, one for him. Sometimes I sit in silence for the entire time I’m there. The gravity of his sacrifice hits in waves. Sometimes I’ll ramble on and on talking to him about my life’s success’ and its failures. Sometimes I’ll sob uncontrollably. I never know how I’ll react. As I drink my beer, so does he, although I have to hold it for him now. I leave a small memento of significance to the two of us for him, hoping that his family sees and knows he is not forgotten. The first time was a pair of my Corporal chevrons that he never got to wear, but that he deserved nonetheless. Then I pack up, kiss his headstone and leave.
While it’s extremely taxing, I’m glad I go.
Why is it important? Because there are things I remember about him, character traits, jokes he’d tell and the way he lived his life that I’ve tried to adopt into my life. When it comes to healing, that has been the single most beneficial thing that I’ve done. I take a piece of each brother that I lost and I try to carry that piece forward with me in life so that they never die. We remember so they still live on. That’s why these days are so important to us. That’s why these traditions are so sacred to us. Remembering our brothers isn’t just a fond thought here and there. Remembering is bringing them and the goodness they exemplified back to life.
“The only thing that makes battle psychologically tolerable is the brotherhood among soldiers. You need each other to get by.” – Sebastion Junger
We will never forget, we will always remember.