A Memorial Day Jolt: My Son, a Bridge and a Fallen Hero

Barb Wire

By Steve Pauwels

This Memorial Day, my wife and I joined a few dozen others attending a ceremony to rename a local bridge in honor of Marine Lance Cpl. Michael E. Geary, who gave his life in the line of duty, December 2010, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  It was a moving half-hour, observed outside on a pleasant, mid-spring afternoon, red-white-and-blue lining the street,  joined by former members of Geary’s unit (2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force),  fellow citizens and the expected smattering of elected officials who provided words spoken in grateful memory of this twenty-year-old, Derry, NH resident who offered the ultimate service for America’s freedom and security.

Throughout the solemnities, a Marine Corps honor guard stood nearby in stoic attendance. One handsome, young jarhead on the end of the line, squared-away in his spit-polished “Blues”, bore an unnerving resemblance to my middle son, Sam. He, coincidentally, is also serving in the USMC, slated shortly for his third overseas deployment; this one to Afghanistan. (I’d be negligent if I failed to mention my eldest, Mike, also survived Parris Island, followed by two honorable stints in Iraq.)

Spying my boy’s look-alike tricked out in his Leatherneck finest, filled me with a twinge of pride and melancholy, particularly since Sam hasn’t been free to visit us for many months now. I turned and muttered quietly to my wife, “It makes me sad seeing him. I miss Sam.” Then, remembering he has a period of leave upcoming, I added with a quick smile, ” But he’ll be home in a few weeks.”mike-in-afghanistan

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That’s when — in the midst of that sombre conclave commemorating a brave hero who laid it all down for his nation — the acrid realization ignited deep within me: For LCP Michael Geary’s family members, there wouldn’t be any anticipation of their departed loved one’s next leave; he wouldn’t be coming home anytime soon; or at all.

I got appropriately choked-up, suddenly and very personally riveted by this fine man’s and his family’s incomprehensible sacrifice. For me. For my family. For us all.

I must never forget; I dare never forget; we dare never forget.

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