Today in the United States we honor our veterans. I believe in Canada they call it Rembrance Day and I like that.
I found out for the first time last night one of my favorite uncles was a Marine. In retrospect, I should have guessed. My Uncle Neil was one of those men who loved is family and was a quiet presence that gave comfort just by his being there.
Today I think about my friend Jim who died on February 2, 1991 in a friendly fire incident at the Kuwaiti airport during Desert Storm. It's been 9 years but I miss him like I saw him just yesterday. Jim was another of those quiet presences. Sitting in the background but would let you know you were special to him. It seems all the Marines I know are like that -- a stoic presence, not intrusive unless they are partying and partying together, solid, stable in their support to those they care for. If your immediate family has a Marine in it, you are part of the larger Marine family.
I read about the incident that killed Jim in the paper the day it happened. It upset me more than the other daily reports I saw. He was based out of Camp Pendleton and was among the first to land in Saudi Arabia in August 1990. I still live in Northern California, where I lived then. I was at work the next day and looked up to see two Marines come up to our floor. My heart lodged in my throat because my boyfriend, one of Jim's best friends was over there as well as a forward air controller. Rick has recently transitioned from flying COBRAs to being a forward air controller. I knew he'd be at the battle for the airport. All I could think when they arrived was something happened to Rick.
I stood and in one of those moments when you don't know if you should run toward someone or run away as fast as your can, I stood frozen as they approached. They came to tell me they'd received a call from my key wife at Camp Pendleton. She didn't want me to hear the news over the phone so she asked for someone from Alameda to go tell me about Jim.
The battle for the airport was intense, fast movers (jets) screaming over head, both ours and Iraqi--they still had aircraft then, Fast and easily manueverable MiGs. We had COBRA helicopters firing an enemy aircraft, CH-46's bring in ground troops and performing medivac duties. Jim was a CH-46 pilot.
As I said, it was a friendly fire incident. I don't think I need to tell you what happened. There was no Pat Tillman-like cover up. Just a tragic battle where four Marine's all people I knew, died.
Rick was never the same after that -- how could he be?
It was another Marine, one who is still in my life, that got me through the ensuing months, wanting to help Rick through his darkest days.
I miss my uncle Neil and I miss Jim and today we honor all of our vets, living and dead.