This is SGT Jon Stiles’ second Memorial Day. There are many who have lost good friends, and many who have lost family members in this war. Jon was my friend. My good friend, and a good man. He died, and I am still here. He paid all, and I have paid so very little in comparison.
Memorial Day was always a little bit more abstract before Jon earned his share in ownership of the day. It had meaning, but never to this extent. So very many of us out there now have that personal knowledge of a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine who has given that last full measure of devotion. For many of us, it is no longer those men of history who are now joined daily in death by compatriots and contemporaries who lived on to complete full lives. Men like 1LT Bob Rice.
No, these are those who have gone far ahead of their comrades. Many will never know the joys of life, such as parenthood; their child’s prom, graduation or wedding. Meanwhile, the rest of us live on, likely, for years. It is very likely that Jon paid my dues. It is very likely that his widow is paying my childrens’ dues. Jon is taking the loss for me the way that he took the blast of a VBIED for his comrades that day in Jalalabad a year and a half ago.
My daughter graduates High School tomorrow and I have lived to see it by the grace of God and the sacrifice of men, better men, like Jon.
My daughter will never know Jon. By the time she is my age, the meaning of the day will have gathered dust again. But for me the tree of Liberty stands a bit fuller, its foliage more abundant for having been watered with the blood of patriots whom I’ve had the privilege to know.