BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Army News Service, May 22, 2002)- It was raining "cats and dogs" and I was late for
Traffic was backed
up at Fort Campbell, Ky., and was moving way too slowly. I was probably going to be late and I was growing more and more impatient.
The pace slowed almost to a standstill as I passed
Memorial Grove, the site built to honor the soldiers who died in the Gander airplane crash, the worst redeployment accident
in the history of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Because it was close to Memorial day, a small American flag had been placed in the ground next to each soldier's
My concern at the
time, however, was getting past the bottleneck, getting out of the rain and getting to PT on time.
All of a sudden, infuriatingly, just as the traffic was getting started
again, the car in front of me stopped.
soldier, a private of course, jumped out in the pouring rain and ran over toward the grove.
I couldn't believe it! This knucklehead was holding up everyone for
who knows what kind of prank. Horns were honking.
I waited to see the butt-chewing that I wanted him to get for making me late.
He was getting soaked to the skin. His BDU's were plastered to his
frame. I watched-as he ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground
in the wind and the rain, and set it upright again.
Then, slowly, he came to attention, saluted, ran back to his car, and drove off.
I'll never forget that incident. that soldier, whose name I will never
know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect that a hundred books or a thousand lectures.
That simple salute--that single act of honoring his fallen brother and
his flag--encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said, "I will never forget. I will keep the faith.
I will finish the mission. I am an American soldier."
I thank God for examples like that.
And on this Memorial day, I will remember all those who paid the ultimate price for my freedom, and one private,
soaked to the skin, who honored them.