Monday, December 6, 2010

A Hero Died Last Week

A hero died last week.  It wasn’t on national television nor did it hit the talk show circuit.  Only a few hundred people even knew about it, I’m sure.  His death was noteworthy yet it will go virtually unnoticed by the world.
He wasn’t the type of hero you see on TV or in the movies.  Only his friends and family will remember his name and accomplishments in a few years.  By most people’s standards he didn’t do anything spectacular and didn’t get his picture on TV, except locally, where he lived.  And that was because of his death.  He merely did what he was supposed to do and did it well.  There are people in this country who would say he’s not a hero in any sense of the word because of that.  But they’d be wrong.
He didn’t wear a cape or have a big “S” on his chest.  He didn’t have a catchy nickname or some gimmick that made him stand out.  As far as I know, he didn’t even help little old ladies across the street, although I have no doubt he would have if the situation ever presented itself. 
This hero did wear a costume, of sorts, with a couple of flashy decorations on his chest.  It was a uniform rather than a costume and he looked great in it.  He was very proud of it and proud to have earned it.  He was a credit to that uniform and a credit to his country.
The hero I’m speaking of was a United States Marine.  Corporal Chad Wade, a husband, a son, a great American, and a United States Marine, died while serving the country he loved in Afghanistan last Wednesday.  Some of you know about Chad if you read my blog post on October 21st, just after Chad had departed for Afghanistan.  If you don’t know of him, he was the son and only child of my wife’s sister and best friend in the world.  He had nine months of enlistment left when he departed for Afghanistan.  He had already been there for one tour of duty and came home safely.  Because he only had 9 months left the Marines wouldn’t have sent him back.  He chose to go and serve out the last of his enlistment there rather than let his fellow Marines go without him.  Character and honor were only two of his qualities.
Chad leaves behind a young wife.  They never even had time to plan a family because he was gone most of the time.  Katie now has to face life as a widow at only 20 years old.  His mom, Tami, is about to face the most difficult thing she will ever face in her life.  Nothing in the world is as difficult as losing a child, particularly if he’s the only one you have.  I know this from experience.  Although she is being strong and she truly is so very proud of him, she’s in for heartache like she’s never experienced before.  And there’s nothing that can change that or make it any easier to deal with except time.
There are those who say, because they oppose the war (or any war), that Chad is not a hero but merely a pawn of the United States government.  To these people I would say “Shut the hell up!”  Anyone who volunteers their very life in service to our country, whether you agree with the war or not, deserves recognition and respect.  There are many who have not the courage or the convictions to ever voluntarily risk their lives for the protection and safety of others.  The war itself will be debated long into the future but those fighting it, simply because they were asked to do so by their country, are exceptional people.  Those who give their lives fighting it are heroes in every sense of the word.  And those who disagree are irrelevant.
Because my wife and I have only been married a short time, I never had the opportunity to meet Chad.  I have met his mother, however, and I know the person she is and therefore, I know the person he was.  It was obvious from Chad’s actions, and the path he chose, that he was raised correctly.  Tami, being a single mom for many of Chad’s formative years, did an exceptional job of raising him and teaching him what was important in life.  As I said, she was, and is extremely proud of her Marine.  She didn’t want her “Chadman” to go to war.  What mother ever wants her son to go to war?  But he was a Marine and he proudly did whatever was asked of him.  And regardless of her own fears, Tami respected Chad’s decisions and commitment to the Corps, as did his wife, Katie. 
Katie married Chad after he joined the Marines and after his first tour in a war zone.  She lived in fear every day but supported her husband and was equally proud of him.  They celebrated their first anniversary a month before Chad departed.
Every parent worries about the safety of their children, even their grown children, throughout their lives, even if it’s kept somewhere in the depths of their hearts.  It’s a completely normal thing for parents to do.  Parents of servicemen and women, particularly those in a war zone, have an entirely different set of worries.  I can only imagine what it must be like to have to worry about your child’s very life every minute of every day.  But it’s a very real fear and, unfortunately, often comes to fruition.  Chad Wade’s unfortunate death has created two new heroes, those being Katie and Tami.  Their strength, their support of Chad, and yes – their sacrifice to their country make them heroes as well.  Any parent or spouse of a military service member who supports that person no matter what the military asks him/her to do is a hero in my book.  And they deserve recognition as well.
Chad Wade is a hero.  I wish I’d have gotten the opportunity to tell him so and to thank him for his service and sacrifice to his country.  You will be missed Chad, maybe by more people than you ever knew.  At least one of those people will be me.  Thank you for your service and thank you for loving your country enough to offer that ultimate sacrifice so few are willing to make.  I’m terribly sorry you had to pay that price but I honor your memory.  And I promise I’ll never forget the hero I never got to meet.

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