Veterans day. No word, no phrase does justice for a meaning that fully grasps who Veterans are. I could say solider. I could say Marine. I could say military. I could say courageous, valor, gallant, heroic, have I done justice yet? We think we are invincible, we think those fighting are too. Nothing breaks are invincible bubble until one of those casualty numbers has a face. Have I convinced you this is more than a day? More than a word? Webster’s dictionary synonyms still did not gratify, still did not grasp the meaning of the word.
Staff Sergeant Goodwin
Cpl. Andre Williams
Sgt. Travis Brill
Lance Corp. Eric Bernholz
Lance Corp. Bradley Hewitt
Those names mean nothing to you, but they are the ones who deserve our honor, praise and reverence. Staff Sergeant Goodwin was the first death Lima Company would face. Corporal Andre Williams made a video wishing his daughter a happy sixth birthday saying, “Keep being good, help mommy out, daddy loves you”. He was killed in action one month after making this video. Sergeant Travis Brill missed his daughter’s birth because of the call to fight. Lance Corporal Eric Bernholz was born in Grove City, my hometown, and worked with youth at my school. A devout Christian died in combat leaving behind a loving family. Lance Corporal Bradley Hewitt. My cousin. A son. A brother. A husband. A father.
Veterans day to me is not a word but a story. A story of a man who gave up everything to fight and lost even more while fighting. Lance Corporal Bradley Hewitt was deployed February 28th, 2005 with 184 other Marines. Lima Company, 3rd platoon. This was my cousin Brad’s, first tour. Little did we know that tour would be the most trying.
Explosions. Casualties. Death.
Each time we prayed Bradley’s name would remain absent from the list of lives lost.
From May 8th to May 15th Lima Company lost 8 members.
In 4 days 18 would be injured and 8 would be killed.
4 dead in an explosion
2 killed in combat
14 dead in an IED explosions
1 of every 3 Marines were either injured or killed
No combat group was hit harder
Do you understand yet? Have I sufficed “Veteran” yet? I can remember one night, I couldn’t sleep, I was anxious. I sat up and immediately hit my knees. Something was wrong, I just knew it. I cried out to God, the weight I felt was almost unbearable. I prayed for Brad’s safety. I would find out later Brad was on his way into a town in Iraq when the vehicle in front of him hit an IED and exploded. Squad one’s vehicle had blown up. Brad was in the vehicle immediately behind the explosion. That explosion would take the lives of 14 Marines.
I do not believe one can truly understand what the word Veteran means, I don’t believe one can truly stand in awe at the sacrifice these men are giving up until a story touches you in your invincible bubble. 3 years ago, I entered the Eyes of Freedom Memorial. A memorial made for the lives lost in my cousin’s platoon. This when my invincible bubble popped. The losses in Brad’s unit were numbers to me. Honestly, Brad was the only number I cared about. Walking through that memorial, seeing the faces of these men opened my eyes. It wasn’t just a number. They were faces, with families. They worked with Brad, day in and day out. Brad didn’t lose numbers, Brad lost friends. That to me was enough to pop my invincible bubble.
Has the importance of Veterans Day hit you yet? Every Veteran has a story. They aren’t just a number of causalities. They aren’t just a purple heart. They aren’t just a number. They are Fathers. Mothers. Sons. Daughters. Brothers. Sisters. Husbands. Wives. Boyfriends. Girlfriends. Lance Corporal Trevor Smith said, “I want people to remember what they did, not that they died.” The men in Lima Company sacrificed for our freedom and so did many other men and women.
Words can’t describe how thankful I am.
So, this Veterans day, don’t just say, “thank you”. Ask about their story.
Here at the Continental Roof Company, we say the biggest, “Thank you” and we’d love to hear your story.