I've lost friends, no brothers really, during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Above is the grave for Master Sergeant Brad Clemmons who served in my Expeditionary Group in Iraq back in 2006-2007. It still hurts and probably always will. I've also been the unlucky guy to prepare daily casualty briefings for my 4-Star at his morning meetings. Probably the worst day was just after the Battle for Fallujah. I had to prepare each slide for each service, color-coded: Blue for Air Force; Green for Army; Red for the Marines; and Black for the Navy. On that day I had to document around 200 Marines. When I briefed the room full of Generals and Colonels, there wasn't a dry eye amongst them.
On a recent transcontinental flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, a plane full of people were exposed to what I lived with for several years - understanding that a news report on sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen dying in action is not abstract. Yahoo's Johnny Jet reported on this instance which occurred on October 31st.
"But this transcontinental flight turned out to be everything but ordinary. We later learned, when the captain got on the PA system about 45 minutes prior to landing, that we were transporting a fallen soldier. The plane went quiet as he explained that there was a military escort on-board and asked that everyone remain seated for a couple of minutes so the soldiers could get off first. He also warned us not to be alarmed if we see fire trucks since Los Angeles greets their fallen military with a water canon salute. See my video below.... As you can imagine, everyone was silent and no one got up, not even that person from the back row who pretends he doesn’t [understand] English so he can be first off the plane. I’m sure most had meteor-sized lumps in their throats and tears in their eyes like I did."
After deplaning Johnny Jet explained how the normally frantic and hurried passengers remained still as they watched the fallen soldier's family receive their son/brother/cousin/loved-one.
"I’m not sure if it was the fallen soldier’s mother or wife who I watched slowly walk up to the coffin while a few other family members, wrapped in blankets, stood near with a dozen or so of the Honor Guards standing in salute.
As soon as I saw her reach out to put her hand on her baby’s casket, I walked away."
I can assure you most, probably all, American and other nation's service members understand the risks when they swear allegiance, train, and serve. But that doesn't make it any easier to lose a friend, brother, sister, or the one that hurts the most, a child. As many of you know, I have a son who is a United States Marine. If you don't think I worry about this, than you are sorely mistaken. Stay safe son. Stay safe.