Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Stopping for the Bugler's Call
Tomorrow morning, after the Voices of Democracy essays are presented, I will hear "Taps" ring out along Plain St. in a small but dignified VFW ceremony.
I have no idea how I'll react. When it happens, I'll be thinking about someone I first crossed paths with in Al Asad, Iraq in the spring of 2006. An enlisted Cryptologic Technician providing tactical intelligence support, Petty Officer Daugherty initally struck me as somewhat aloof -- did this guy think he was better than me because I was just a TOC monkey? When I really got to know him later that year back at Little Creek, I realized how wrong my initial impression had been. Petty Officer Dougherty came from that breed of sailor who truly loved his trade (now we had something in common!) and was looking to put together his package to trade his chevrons in for bars and become a Naval Intelligence Officer. He sought me out for advice on the process and we both agreed that after our respective rounds of upcoming deployments, we would sit down together, knock it out, and send it off to Millington, with preemptory phone calls to all the right people. That behind-the-scenes effort, I hoped, would not only guarantee a deserved commission but also convey something subtle but important about the impact that an Officer who cares enough to make that *little* difference can have on a sailor's life.
All of that, however, was preempted by a blast in Sadr City that rendered the discussions and plans moot.
I can't imagine for one second what he would say if he could reach down to any of us today, but I have wondered a lot over the past six years about how best to honor people like Steve. It never comes back to things like Facebook pages, memorial walls, or even donations and volunteer work. Those all have their places, but it has a lot more to do with taking a little bit of time to pause and reflect about what you have and why you have it.
On this or any other Veterans Day, I think that's about the best you can do.