|Me and my father, 1995 or '96.|
Twenty-two veterans take their own lives in this country every day. My father didn't give his life for his country, he gave his sanity. He died of alcoholism.
I don't like thinking about it because the good man that he was, the man who taught me so much about how to be a man, died years before my father actually passed. He died at fifty-nine, but his last ten years were a steady descent. From rationality into madness. It was hard to watch, and what made it worse is that he didn't want help.
He just... didn't want to do it anymore.
Anyway, I feel comfortable celebrating Dad's life on Memorial Day. He was my father, and he loved being a Marine, and he was a huge part of my life, and I miss him. We all have our private tragedies, and this is mine.
My class from West Point has fallen, too, of course. I knew Hans Kurth a little, but we weren't close. I didn't know Jimmy at all. Those guys were still my brothers, but I have to admit that I feel extremely fortunate not to have lost anyone that was a real brother or sister to me, anyone who was like family. Some of my friends have done a lot, but they all seem to have gotten home in one piece; they've successfully reconnected with their families and with the peacetime Army or with civilian life, which is an entirely tougher trick. It's a blessing. This past year has brought me back in touch with a whole collection of guys and gals that I absolutely love, and that's been pretty wonderful, too. I got a note from a guy I used to swim with at the Academy thanking me for my help / guidance / example as he's been transitioning from the Army, and reading about his new job and his excitement to move forward has been the most gratifying thing I've done in weeks. He's a good dude, he served when called, and then -- recently -- he got laid off. He was understandably upset, not least because layoffs aren't supposed to be part of the deal when you're called back to service during wartime. But he's over it now and moving forward. That's what I like to see.
|Kim Hampton in the cockpit at 4-7 Cav.|
Kim was assigned as the XO of the Aviation Maintenance Company, a made-up position because we were overstrength on LTs at the time. But she made the most of it, and I never heard anything but good things about her work. She eventually extended in Korea, led an actual aviation platoon, served in Afghanistan, and went to the 82nd Airborne. She was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 when her Kiowa was shot down. My buddy Joe called and told me, and we both sat there and cried.
Kim was a great young officer. She had a lot going on, and people liked her. I liked her. She was engaged when she died, and the whole thing makes me sadder than Hell.
I don't know what else to say.
Happy Memorial Day, folks. Live it up out there. Enjoy your freedom because it sure as shit didn't come free.