This morning I got up and shrugged on one of the uniforms I wore in Iraq. I pulled on the boots I wore first in the Egyptian desert days after 9-11 and then wore regularly at Ft Hood and in Iraq -they're my favorites. I went downstairs to pour a cup of coffee into a travel cup. I pulled one out, and then for some reason, put it back. While I was replacing it my eye fell on another travel cup: one I thought was lost forever. It was the travel cup I had carried for 18 months and misplaced in Tallil, Al-Diwaniah, Al-Asad and numerous other places. But it had my name on it so it was always returned to me. Only to be lost, I thought, in the US.
After a day of keeping the world safe for democracy I met up with a friend for dinner. She suggested Chow Baby, to which I agreed, never having been there before. It's one of those restaurants where you select rice or pasta, veggies, and meat, and they fry it up for you on a big griddle. "Whoa", I thought, "It's Mongolian BBQ night!" That was my favorite night at the chow hall in Balad where I would pile my plate high with spaghetti, shrimp, crushed red pepper, and garlic/butter sauce which would be fried on a big griddle. I loved Mongolian BBQ night.
Then I came home and realized, suddenly, that it was January 20th.
Three years ago I was walking from the chow hall when I received the radio call, "Mustang 2-0, Mustang 2-0, Fallen Angel, I repeat, Fallen Angel". Mustang 2-0 was my call sign. Fallen Angel meant we had a missing helicopter. It was the first word I would hear that we had lost 12 Soldiers on what would become the deadliest day we, as a country, would experience in Iraq. That radio call would begin a whirlwind of grief counseling, planning for a memorial service, and the realization that we would not all be going home.
Here's to the crew and passengers of EASY 40. You were our friends, our comrades, true heroes and patriots. You represent to me all who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom from the founding of our country.
And here's to the spouses, children, grandchildren, and friends you left behind. As long as we live you will never be forgotten.