Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Event Analysis (17 Oct 2012) - Chris Ridgely

Relationships and Brotherhood

     Two weeks ago, I was volun-told by my unit to help out at a function. At the time I had no information about what the event was and what it entailed as far as my duty goes. Nonetheless, like a good soldier I accepted my fragmentary duty and got ready for the drive out to an unfamiliar hotel on the outskirts of Baltimore. It was not until I had arrived was I briefed on what my duties would be but when I was informed, I felt honored. A few other soldiers from the unit and I were selected to help at a welcoming home ceremony of the 29th Infantry Division HHC Virginia from their 15 month deployment to Afghanistan. 
     I was so very glad to see a room full of soldiers safely back from a full deployment and to be one of the soldiers that awarded them their service awards and plaque with a folded American Flag. After we had finished getting the room just right and the returning soldiers flooded the room and took their seats I noticed something out of place. In the middle of camouflage and combat boots, there was a man wearing jeans and t-shirt. I had a guess but wished it was not true. As the major in command and the official party made their speech to the crowd, we had a moment of silence as the ceremonial Taps was being played on the bugle. The 29th ID unfortunately did not come out as well as I had hoped and they had lost a soldier to an IED explosion during a convoy. It was a major, but I cannot recall his name as of right now. Even if I were able to I would not be able to place it in writing but this man was at least 40 and at most 50 and he had a family with a wife and daughter as well as two brothers. I have always known the realities of my job and the nature of the war but this is when it hit me the hardest. Seeing the faces of the soldiers that have known him and the way they tell their stories. The way you could have been talking to them one day about something completely meaningless then the next day they are gone. The way that person had so much potential and now they are dead. The way that his wife and kids now have to grow up without a father. The children, too young to understand what really happened and for why. It really puts a hole in your heart to hear such stories. A soldier said he was talking to him just the night before his death about a letter his wife had sent him and being so close to the end of their deployment. I have always known the dangers that come with this line of work but the fact that we were celebrating for the glory of returning back to American soil, but simultaneously mourning the loss of this individual made the entire event bittersweet. Even for me who has never met any of these people previously felt an uneasiness about the event.
     Being only a PFC in the Army and only being in for close to two years now, you know the brotherhood and sisterhood is there but you do not see it very often, especially being on reserve status, but on that day, I was able to see, experience and almost feel what it is like to have brothers in arms. To trust someone so much that you can confide your thoughts and emotions to the person to your left and your right because you know that they will have your back no matter what happens. To see the support that the close friends and the family received from other soldiers in the company and myself included. This entire event closely relates to a lot of the poems and stories we have read throughout the course of the class. I believe however the best relationship to this is the poem written by Yusef Komunyakaa, "Slam, Dunk, and Hook". The way the children use basketball to calm and build resolve in the child that lost his mother is very similar to the way the soldiers consoled the friends and family of the fallen warrior. The friends in the poem were in a sense also brothers because of their bond created by sharing so many experiences with each other and this is what made them close. What makes soldiers close is the amount of time spent with one another going though the same hard times, side by side. The strongest bond that can be made is working with another person when everything just sucks to the full extent of the word and that is what makes the brotherhood in the military so strong. 
     I am glad that I was able to assist at this ceremony because it makes me appreciate my military service so much more and being able to physically see the brotherhood of the military come together in this fashion is almost like seeing a miracle happen before your eyes. I have actually experience something similar to this brotherhood while I was in training and I had injured my back. I was unable to move and I wanted to quit but my battle buddies rallied my and would not allow me to do that. I believe that is part of the reason why I am where I am today. But that is a story for another day. Comparing the brotherhood I have seen and experienced in the military and the brotherhood and sisterhood exhibited here on Loyola are very similar and very different at the same time. At least from my perspective. In the military, the army more specifically, every soldier is going to help another soldier if they see they need help no matter what their relationship is to that soldier. Here on Loyola or maybe even civilians in general, people are more willing to help if it is someone they know but are less inclined to help out if it is a stranger. Even if that person obviously goes to Loyola. There is definitely much less of a teamwork, one force, one fight aspect to civilian life as compared to the military where everyone has a common goal and a common standard and creed that they all live by. 

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