Today, I Remember

I did not support the war in Iraq.  I was outspoken about it, too. Not that I marched in the streets carrying a sign, but I’d tell anyone who’d listen that I thought what we were doing was wrong.

When soldiers started dying, it made me sick to my stomach. And it solidified my distain the for Bush administration. How dare he put soldiers in harms way for something that was propped up with false information?  My discomfort for the war took a very sharp turn on May 1, 2008, when I got word my cousin Kyle had been injured in Iraq.  His Humvee had been hit and he’d survived, but was in very serious condition.

A few days before he was deployed, I’d talked to Kyle, who was an Army Ranger.  In that conversation, he told me he was scared. Even if he hadn’t admitted that, the cold sweat in his words made it loud and clear. I told him that he would be okay, that the universe—the love that surrounds him in bounty—would protect him. Boy, I wish I hadn’t been wrong.  I wish I’d told him to run like hell the other direction, even though he wouldn’t have listened. He was a dedicated soldier and believed in what he was doing, where he was going.  This is somehow a tiny bit of salve.

When I say there was a cold sweat, I’m not saying Kyle was chicken. The contrary actually; he was a bad ass.   A beautiful, funny, loving bad ass who could hit a tin can from a mile away with the right gun.  But even bad asses feel fear, especially when they’re standing before the mouth of a monster.

Kyle fought for many days and in a hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the country I now call home. (He was on his way to Walter Reed, but never made it because his condition worsened mid-flight.) Kyle lost his battle on May 15, 2008 and his passing was like a spear into the side of our family.  When it was pulled out, there was a gaping hole, much of it infected with anger (at least for myself and some I spoke to candidly). But Kyle dying changed my view of a lot of things, many of which I’m still trying to give voice.

One thing I know for sure is that our soldiers and all they sacrifice don’t get enough respect and recognition.  They deserve parades and parties and hellova lot more money, during and after service.  I also now pay careful attention when I hear of another lost soldier on the news.  I think of their family. I think of my aunt and uncle and Kyle’s sister and the way the grass smelled at Arlington when they did his 21-gun salute, when Taps played. I think of Kyle’s best friend who stood at attention in his uniform, his hand saluting his fallen friend in stoic form, but with a thick flood of tears carving canyons down his face.

And finally, I think of Memorial Day differently now. I realize it’s important, in the mayhem of our daily lives, to take the time to remember, to celebrate, to memorialize those we’ve lost.  So today, cousin Kyle, I salute you with my political feelings aside and say thank you for your service and for giving the ultimate sacrifice for what you believed in.  I love and miss you and will never ever forget.

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