I was planning on writing a post about my super cool birthday party that my wife threw for me on Friday, but it being Veterans Day and an email I received today changed my mind (I’ll post the party post later this week). I’ve mentioned my buddy Jon the Green Beret a couple times. He joined the Army about three years ago. I remember when he called me right after he enlisted. To be honest, I wasn’t that surprised. Jon, like me, has always been a history buff, probably more so, and he’s always been interested in things about the military and had talked about joining the Army some day. After training, basic and special, and a marriage, he was shipped to Germany several months ago. A few of us got together with him before he left. Jon was never a big guy by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe about five foot eight, not more than 140 pounds, maybe less. When I saw him before he left he must have put on about 20 pounds of rock hard muscle. The dude was ripped. Despite his small stature he had always been athletic, and is in fact an accomplished fencer of all things, but now he’s a force to be reckoned with.
I always wondered what kind of work the Green Beret’s were doing in Germany, but whatever it was apparently its under control. A few weeks ago Jon sent me an email telling me he was being deployed to Afghanistan. He does have email access and we’ve been in sporadic communication. He describes Afghanistan as the Jundland Wastes of Tatooine. Not the kind of place you’d expect to be so contested for all these years.
Today I got an email from Jon’s mom, which included a message he had sent them. This past weekend his unit had come under fire and suffered casualties, including one KIA (killed in action). His mom thought that the soldier who lost his life was someone that had gone through most of training with Jon.
For the first time in my life, someone I know very well is literally in the line of fire. My grandfather served in WWII and my father-in-law in Vietnam, but obviously those battles occurred long before I was born. Its a strange feeling to know that someone who I used to spend late nights playing Nintendo with, someone who I once stood toe-to-toe with in a late night parking lot donnybrook, someone who once, as a ninety pound freshman, proclaimed that he could knockout anyone in the class with one punch–the famed “frontal explosion”–is now fighting off Taliban incursions in the Afghan wilderness. Its a little surreal.
I sent him an email today offering my condolences, not really knowing what to say, but at least letting him know I’m here, praying for him and his buddies.
Update: Literally five minutes after posting this last night, I turned on the TV and ABC’s Nightline was running a segment on Afghanistan. A Vanity Fair photographer was embedded with an Army unit there and had video of them in action. It was pretty interesting to see what the fighting is like there and gave me an idea of what Jon must be dealing with. At one point they were caught in an ambush and a man was killed. Pretty intense stuff. Like I said, very surreal.