Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Debt We All Owe

I saw a photo on facebook of a young man, Sgt. Micheal P. Scusa. He was killed in Kamdesh, Afghanistan on October 3, 2009. His photo was posted by his father in honor of the sacrifice he and seven of his brothers in arms made in service to our country. He was only twenty three years old at the time of his death. His photo, his posting lead me to another site, Freedom Remembered. There I found a story on Micheal, on the side of his page a link to recent causalities, Spc. Omar Soltero, Spc. Joshua R. Campbell, Spc Shawn A. Muhr, Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz, Jr. and Tech Sgt. Leslie D. Wilson. All of them have died in the past month in the line of duty.

The website states over 5500 stories of soldiers, sailors, airmen are listed. You can search the site by branch of service, by state, by month, by country/battle. I decided to search my home state, Maryland. There are forty five soldiers and sailors stories told, listed on the site. I scanned down the page, it was in a way too hard to look. The realization too much. I went back to the main page, over 5500 men and women, 5500!

Another photo, another face, another soldier, too many to count on my own. All with their own tale but every man, every woman similar in several respects. They all died too soon. They all had loved ones left behind to mourn them. Many of the men and women photographs are in uniform, everyone looks ‘ten feet tall’. Their faces, their stance, their bodies, everything about them is emanating with pride. Proud to be serving our country, protecting us, accomplishing the mission set before them. They felt the calling, the obligation to serve our country, fight for freedom. On these pages officers and enlisted are side by side, no longer separated by rank. They have all been equalized by death. They all made the same sacrifice and have been laid to rest on hallowed ground.

They are a son, a daughter who will be forever young. Life will move on with out them. Children will be born and grow. Super Bowls, World Series, Stanley Cups, Belmont Stakes, the Larry O’Brien Trophy all will awarded year after year. Their favorite teams will continue to play, their voices, their cheers, their yells, their laughter, their cries will forever be silent. One less fan will sit on the sidelines, in the stands, watching television or listening by radio. One less parent will be at a child’s game. Holidays, birthdays, graduations and weddings will be celebrated without them. They will be the empty chair at the table on Thanksgiving. They will be the feeling someone is missing when families go on vacation. They will be the hug someone longs for one last time.

They are the photo that sits in a silent vigil on a loved one’s desk, a nightstand, the mantle in the living room. The person whose portrait is never replaced by an updated photograph. They will be the unspoken sorrow in a loved one’s life. They are the sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers with unfinished lives, unfinished dreams. We will never know what more they had to offer, what more they could have become for they gave us their all the day they laid down their life in the name of freedom.

I sadly have seen the cycle many times. At first they will be remembered, spoken of often. There will be birthday parties, get togethers in their honor. They will be the topic of conversation for the first few years after their death. Then slowly as time progresses, they are spoken of less and less. There are no longer toasts in their honor, stories are not told as often. They are not forgotten, they are simply no longer remembered as much. Their graves are no longer visited by friends as often as they once were. Their headstones will become lightly covered with dirt, no longer brushed away by a loving hand of a friend/lover. Flowers are no longer laid upon their graves as frequently as before. They lay in silence under the rising and setting sun day after day, year after year. They lay there alone for all eternity, for service and sacrifice made to all of us.

The price they paid is immeasurable. In return what do we owe them? Whose obligation is it to remember, the forever young? As time goes by who is responsible to remember the long forgotten? Is an inscription on a wall of honor, a monument, a web site, is that payment enough for their sacrifice? Should that really be considered acceptable? Payment in full? We celebrate Memorial day every May but is one day really adequate to honor those who have paid the last full measure of devotion? Or do we all have an obligation to tell their story, visit them, remember them as much as possible? Shouldn’t we at least try to remember them in our prayers at least once a week, or is that asking too much?

Individually we can not remember everyone. There are so many who have given their lives in service to this country it would be an impossible task. The debt we owe is to those we knew. Those who have traveled in our life, shared our memories, made us who we are today. No man or woman dies friendless or without a family. It is our individual responsibility to tell their stories, share the memories of our friends who have died way too young. If we as their friends remember them less and less, if we let a photo, a piece of inscribed granite be the only reminder, remembrance of our friends who have died, then we have not paid our debt. We can not expect a stranger to remember or honor our friends for they do not know them as we do. We are the ones who must carry their hopes, their dreams, their ambitions forward. It is our responsibility to share who are friends were with others. What they meant to us. How amazing and wonderful they were. We are in essence the legacy of our friends. We are the only ones who can adequately pay the debt the country owes. If we do not remember, reflect, tell their story, a nation of strangers will not as well. Our friends will be lost in time. They will become only a name on a headstone. We must shout as loud as we can, as often as we can, we can not let anyone drown us out. We must write, remember and respect our friends who have died. We must tell their stories over and over until their memory becomes a strong echo through the halls of life that can not be silenced. We can not let them be forgotten, for that is the debt we must pay!

My debt, who I owe
Lt. Robert T. Bianchi
23 March 1987 (age 26)

U.S.N.A. Class of 1983

Cdr Peter G. Oswald27 August 2002 (age 41)
U.S.N.A. Class of 1984

Cdr. Kevin A. Bianchi16 July 2003 (age 40)

U.S.N.A. Class of 1985

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