Memorial Day is very dear to my heart. I lost Soldiers in my unit in Afghanistan in 2012 and my unit was not the same after that. Although Memorial Day is not the only day to remember those that have fallen, I take this day to reflect on the memories I had with those that are no longer with us. This is a time when I count my blessings and thank God that we are safe here at home, because of their sacrifice.
In Afghanistan, I worked in the S1 shop (the personnel staff office). My duties while deployed were primarily to generate casualty reports and strength management. That means every time a Soldier in our Brigade was wounded or Killed in Action (KIA), I had to ensure we submitted detailed and accurate reports to our Division so that further notifications could be made to their families and next of kin. Those reports were also used to submit those Soldiers for valor awards.
When there were incidents involving Soldiers from my Brigade, S1 was notified by the Brigade’s Tactical Operations Center (TOC) when there were incoming casualties. My duty was to go to the TOC immediately and wait to receive the “battle roster numbers” of those that were injured and the wounds sustained (or if there were any KIA), so that we could get started with the casualty reports. I and the S1 team were the first ones to identify the full names of the injured as only their battle roster numbers were given by MEDEVAC or whoever called the TOC to report the incident.
August 8, 2012 was the worst day of my deployment. We were notified that we had multiple casualties and possible KIAs. Our office got very intense because we knew they were members of our unit; they were people we ate lunch with and shared stories with on a daily basis. I started to pull their names from the roster. My heart sank further and further as I was recognizing all of the names coming up. We knew we had KIAs but we did not know who at that point. Still I had to continue my job as if it wasn’t heartbreaking to know my fellow Soldiers were not making it home and those that were, were going to be scarred from that day on. I cried in my bed every time we had KIAs in the Brigade. But, I cried even harder for those who I considered my friends.
Memorial Day is a day to reflect on the fallens’ families and pray that the memories of their loved ones are still vibrant in their hearts and that they have found peace.
This Memorial Day, I will be completing the CrossFit workout “Murph” which is in memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005. I will proudly work as hard as I can while also thinking of my brothers and sisters that lost their lives in 2012. I hope others around the country will join me in doing something to remember the legacy of those we have lost, and take a moment of silence at 3pm local time on Monday to support IAVA’s #GoSilent campaign.