The Ultimate Sacrifice

I read a news headline tonight about a 29 year-old Southern California Army officer who was killed in Afghanistan as a result of his helicopter crashing. I have no idea how many similar headlines I’ve read in the last 10+ years. I have no idea how many more I’ll read, and I have no idea when they’ll stop — if they ever will.

I read that he was 29, and some quick math told me he was born in the 80s. I started to remember my time growing up in the 80s and imagined us doing similar things as we grew up an hour or two away from each other.

I wondered if we grew up watching the same cartoons, if we had a penchant for the same fast food and how close I ever came to him all the time my family and I would go to Palm Springs in my younger years.

I wondered if he and his family ever ventured to the Orange County beaches during the long summer months and if we played in the same surf, dug in the same sand and used the same fire pits to roast hot dogs or make s’mores.

I remember lighting fireworks on the cul-de-sac I grew up on — back when fireworks were still legal here. I imagined him doing the same thing in his neighborhood and wondered of something about the patriotic nature of the Fourth of July is what inspired him to enlist in the Army.

I wondered if he had a brother, sister, father or other family member who inspired him to follow in their footsteps.

I imagined his family’s concern when he enlisted, and I imagined him telling them it’s what he truly wanted to do.

There seems little to be thankful for when someone is killed serving his country. But tonight I am thankful for his service, for the media who — while sensationalism is often the name of their game — dutifully cover and report on these tragedies our fellow Americans are part of, and for the emotion and action these instances can create in everyone who reads about these tragedies.

I can’t imagine the loneliness that must be felt by Americans overseas, and how much they must often wish to be home breathing this country’s air again, walking on our soil again and enjoying the company of close family and friends. Tonight I can only hope that the soldiers they served with were as tight a family as is possible to have while away from our country, and I’m grateful for the dedication and service they give for us all.

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