Wednesday, November 7, 2007

John is Dead

Not 20 minutes before I heard the news, I was thinking about my old team and my buddies. I thought about John and wondered how he was doing. As an Army noncommissioned officer, he was killed near Kirkuk just days ago. Like so many others who die here in Iraq, his life was taken by a roadside bomb. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Another email will have to be deleted from my address book. I probably won’t ever delete it though. I haven’t deleted the email addresses of my other friends who’ve been killed, whether here in the Middle East or at home. Instead, it’s a nice reminder to see the address every once in a while and remember the good times and the pleasant memories. John and his jovial, energetic attitude will be profoundly missed. I pray for his loved ones.

Three of our other teammates and the Lieutenant Colonel Provost Marshal we respected so much plan on attending the funeral. I wish I could go. We were a tight knit group. On a full-time Military Police Special Reaction Team (SRT), we trusted each other with our lives. We knew each other and had formed bonds tighter than any other military unit I have ever been associated with. We were akin to a police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. Besides in name, the only difference is whenever we had to make an entry against a hostage taker, a barricaded or suicidal suspect, or serve a high-risk warrant, we were up against well-trained military soldiers and potentially military weapons. In short, we had to be better, more capable and disciplined than local SWAT teams. We were.

Just last week I called Herb who's in Taji. He stayed in the Army. So did John, Jeremy, Paul, Don and others. Many of them have been back here to Iraq numerous times. Paul lost his jaw in an explosion in OIF I. Jeremy flies helicopters for the Army and is here in Iraq. Juan, Dave and others went into the Green Beret Special Forces. Tony worked as a private security contractor in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Herb and I spoke about how much we missed the camaraderie and closeness of SRT. There is nothing like knowing perfectly that the guy close behind you or the guy on your right or left will not hesitate to kill to save you or another person; that he’ll make the right tactical decision. There’s nothing like the trust and bond; you know he’ll do the right thing. There’s a trust there that cannot be shared with anyone else. You don’t trust your spouse that way; you don’t trust anyone else that way.

Most of us got out of the military. Jason is in Nevada, Rob is in Colorado, Mac is in Missouri, Eddie is Georgia, and Alexander (I’m choosing to use a pseudonym for his protection) is flying the not-so-friendly skies. All of those listed operate in a law enforcement capacity. They are the crème de la crème, the tip of the spear. They are my best friends. The close ties with them will last an eternity. The kind of unique friendship that derives from serving on an elite tactical unit cannot be replaced nor mirrored by any other bond. In life or death, we are brothers in arms.

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