Today is December 1, 2011. One year ago today Corporal Chad Stafford Wade made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and his fellow Marines in Afghanistan. He was 23 years old and on his second tour – a tour he didn’t have to take being an only child. The Marines told him he didn’t have to go. Chad said if his buddies were going he was going too. That’s the man he was.
I have been so caught up in my own personal life that I almost forgot what today is. And that breaks my heart. Chad’s mom, Tami, is very special to me and it hurts me to the core that she’s suffering today. I know that type of suffering – it’s not a good thing. The first anniversary of your child’s death is very painful. They’re all painful but the first is doubly so. The first is when those memories come crashing in – how it happened, who said what, how you found out, what you did and what you felt when you realized it was real. And it hurts. It hurts deeply. And I hate it that Tami is having to go through that today.
Chad Wade was a Marine in every sense of the word. As I said – he didn’t have to go to Afghanistan. He had already been to Iraq. Being an only child with only nine months left on his enlistment he could have stayed behind. He chose to go because his fellow Marines, the ones in his platoon, were going and he didn’t want them to go without him. Chad Wade was a man of courage and honor and he put his buddies before himself. He paid the ultimate price for it but did so voluntarily. He loved his country and his fellow Americans enough to sacrifice his own life for them (us). Those Americans he loved included his mom, his step-dad, Tebo, his Aunt Paige, and everyone else he cared about, as well as those of us he didn’t know. Chad was an exceptional man.
On this day I ask that all of you spend a moment remembering Chad and his sacrifice, as well as his grieving mother and family. No one should have to bury their child. It’s simply not right. Unfortunately, it happens on a regular basis and some of us have to live with it. We don’t ask for pity. We don’t need pity. We ask for understanding of why we sometimes cry for non-obvious reasons and we sometimes smile more broadly watching someone with their children simply because it triggers a good memory for us. We sometimes ask that you honor our deceased children by simply telling yours that you love them. Today I challenge you to tell your children that you love them, in honor of Chad. If you can’t tell them in person, call them. If that’s not possible, send them an e-mail or a letter. If even that’s not possible (if your child is deep in a war zone) then ask God to tell them for you. I have a feeling He grants requests of that sort on a regular basis…