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For those who left us
I was surfing social media in February 2012 when a woman with whom I deployed to Kosovo in 2007 messaged to tell me that Major Bob Marchanti was killed in Afghanistan. I knew him as a Captain back then. He was goofy, happy, and so so kind!
We served together in the National Guard - the 29th Infantry Division. Bob Marchanti was murdered in an attack at the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, by the Taliban who claimed responsibility, calling the murder of the US Soldiers retaliation for the burning of Qur’ans at a US military base.
I will admit to becoming enraged, throwing things all over the house, and posting some pretty harsh words on social media. I must have appeared pretty unhinged, because my former Sergeant Major, who was deployed to Afghanistan with Major Marchanti at the time, called me from Kabul to make sure I hadn’t completely lost it. How crazy must I have sounded for my deployed friend to take the time to call me from a war zone to ensure I was OK?
It was a tough loss, to be sure.
In November 2018, I got another message—this time from yet another buddy with whom I deployed. I worked in a SCIF and I left my phone in my car every day, so I did not get the message until my shift ended close to 2am. My former company commander and good friend, Major Tony Salvadore, had died in a motorcycle accident. I had actually planned to text Tony the next day and see if he wanted to get together for dinner, since we hadn’t seen one another in a while. And when I picked up the phone and saw the message, I sat in the garage stunned and devastated, crying hysterically, grieving for my friend.
Tony, who was a Captain when we deployed, was one of my closest friends on that deployment. He was goofy. He would duck under a roof, or run in the other direction, jokingly trying to avoid our salutes when we were outside. When my brother died before we left on deployment, Tony pulled me aside and we had an in-depth conversation about my family. I was assigned as his examiner for his HMWWV driving test that day, and we got stuck in traffic… in full battle rattle… on I-95 outside of Ft. Belvoir, and we sat there for an hour and a half talking about our families. When things went a bit awry during our deployment, he and I took a long walk along with a senior NCO friend of ours, and Tony told us about how he used to work in some kind of animal rescue as a teenager and how he had befriended this possum that would climb into his lap when he came to work and they would sit in a rocking chair together.
Tony was a tough loss. He didn’t die in combat, but he still died. He was only 55.
There were others. So many others!
Over the years, we lost so many friends and comrades! So many fine and honorable men and women “left the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings!” We were away from our families, sometimes in dangerous environments, performing hazardous duties, and we clung to one another in friendship and support.
There was no race, no class, no caste… we were all Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines. And we all remember.
In 2004, Adam and Donovan Montierth created a short film called Reveille. A friend of mine—another individual with whom I deployed to Kosovo in 2006-2007—introduced me to this independent film. The short has no dialogue. It features two actors—the late, great David Huddleston and the legendary James McEachin—as a Navy and an Army veteran respectively, having a friendly rivalry over a flag.
I won’t give anything else away here, but I will tell you that tears streamed down my face as I watched this film again and again, marveling at the fraternal love that did not require a single word.
We may have some interservice rivalries, but in the end, we are all siblings. Dysfunctional, and sometimes a bit crazy, but siblings nonetheless.
Memorial Day is not a happy holiday. The friends whom we lost would no doubt want us to celebrate their lives, to welcome summer, to relax and enjoy our lives, and we do. But it’s not a happy holiday. It’s a time to remember those who came before us, those who are no longer with us, those who gave all and who sacrificed so much!
So before you head to the beach, please take 10 minutes to watch Reveille, remember them, and give a word of thanks.
It means so much to so many!