Every Memorial Day is one that I remember with certain emotion. When I joined the United States Army, I was 21 years old. My recruiter picked me up from my house around 4:30am in the morning. He hauled me off to the Military Entrance Processing Station(MEPS). That day, changed my life forever. It was September 11th 2001, I was upstairs in the building filling out paperwork, the room was filled with many other recruits for every branch. All of a sudden we heard military personnel running around saying that the twin towers were just attacked, now I was thinking that this was just a joke to try and scare us, to see who would actually complete their recruitment paperwork. So, upon finishing my paperwork, I walked downstairs, I looked at the big screen TV, and there were the two towers, on fire, smoke billowing from them. My reaction was to call my mother, I told her; “Looks like I’m going to war,” she had not even heard the news yet. As the military staff rushed around to finish signing everyone up and close down the station, I soon realized that I was the only one to take the Oath that day. Even the woman who swore me in, said something along the same lines. I took the Oath, and was rushed out of the building. The paperwork I had signed, was for the delayed entry program. October soon rolled around, Again, I was hauled off to the Atlanta airport, then flown to Fort Benning , GA. My life had changed for ever.
After six months or so of infantry school training, I was assigned to Fort Campbell, KY, 101st Airborne Division. Upon my arrival, there was one soldier, Justin Garvey, soon became my mentor and friend. He taught me how to shine my boots, press my uniform and the more refined details of how to be a soldier. He was kind enough to take me under his wing and take care of me right after basic training. This man, helped shaped my military life. Along with sharing lessons about boot shining, we would share a beer after work sometimes, a little brew to unwind after the work day.
Thinking I would be going to Afghanistan soon after my arrival to Fort Campbell, which I was mistaken. I had missed the last deployment to the combat zone by a few weeks I believe. I tried to transfer to 2nd battalion, however, they only took a few, I was not able to make that shipment. Even though I had no idea, what combat was like, I felt the need that I must do more for my country, just being there was not enough.
Months later, the rest of the unit would return home from Afghanistan, I felt like I had not done enough, being back home in the “rear with the gear” was not something I wanted to be known for, even though it was out of my control. I was just a private. Over the next 2 years, I would create a bond with my platoon and fellow soldiers that cannot be quantified with words. The brotherhood, that you create among men through days and nights of training, and one day combat is something that can never be taken from you.
Over the course of those two years, I also continued to hold a strong friendship with now, Sergeant Garvey. We were not in the same company, so it was difficult to hang out at during the work day, however he lived down the street from me, so I would be able to stop over after work and when I had free time to visit for a beer or two. He was a true friend and mentor to me. He eventually got married, to a woman who I only met a few times, and seemed to be a wonderful woman. They would end up purchasing the house that I used to visit him in. The reason, that my visits slowed down was due to the fact of the Iraq war. We were training for this conflict without really knowing we were going to actually be deployed, even though we had speculation.
I believe we finally deployed from Fort Campbell, KY on February 28th 2003. We would sit in Kuwait for for a few weeks, until the call to cross the border would come. We drove from Kuwait to our position in Iraq, that took 3 days or so. That is when I realized how useless the U.N really was. As we drove across the border of Kuwait and Iraq, we passed a U.N building with soldiers standing outside, just watching the real soldiers go to war. Why our country even works with the U.N, I will never know.
Sergeant Garvey and I were still in separate companies, I never got to say goodbye to him, I never got to thank him for everything that he taught me, I will never get to tell him, how he is still a huge part of my life to this day. One day, leaving the fort that our battalion was staying in, he and Sergeant Jordan were leaving in a Humvee. We did not have armored Humvees at this time. The RPG that struck their Humvee, would not have been stopped by the armor anyways. It destroyed the vehicle, Sergeant Garvey from what I understand and Sergeant Jordan, were both killed instantly. We had sandbags to covered on the bottom of our vehicles to protect us from IEDs.
I would only learn of my buddies death by radio, when we were told of the attack, his name was told to me as Gerbey, or something along those lines. I asked if it was him, at the time I was told it was not. Later on, I would be on guard, and unable to attend the memorial for him. I never got to say goodbye. Today, a day of pride, a sad of sorrow, a day for Heroes. Years later, I still feel the pain of his death, I cannot imagine what his family feels on this day. My hope is that maybe, they will read this and know that he made a wonderful impact on my life. I have two tattoos on my body, so that way people ask, what they are for. I have a Japanese tattoo for Pride on the left side of my neck, which then leads people to ask what it means, I tell them, Pride in my country, Pride in the United States Army, then I can tell them about my friend and mentor Sergeant Justin Garvey. I just hope that I live up to his sacrifice, he gave his life, just as many other men and women of the military have since the birth of this nation. I hope I live up to that standard they set forth by my actions. I hope that I continue to serve my nation, that is worthy of that sacrifice.
For many years, I woke up each and every day wishing and wondering why I had not died myself. Sometimes I still wonder, not as often, but I know that God has other plans for me, or things would be different. To all our men and women who have given the highest price this nation will ever know. I thank you, May God Bless you and your family. Thank you Justin for everything that you have done for me, Thank you for your sacrifice. I hope that my actions continue to honor your life as soldier. May God Bless America.