I wrote the following for a friend who had been visiting VA hospitals in the Northwest during the Fall of 2007. My friend was not part of any larger group or organization, he was visiting wounded vets simply because he believed he needed to. After delivering some books and spending a few precious moments with one gravely wounded Marine, he reluctantly left the ward and proceeded to leave the hospital. Not more than a minute later, a nurse came running down the hall after my friend in order to tell him that the Marine he had just spoken with had expired. My friend was the last living soul to speak with this Marine. It is my honor to call one man my friend. It is my honor to call the other my countryman.
The Man Next To You
He waited, but not for a parade, nor permission, nor a public pat on the head from some opportunistic policy maker.
He waited because he had yet to confirm he was good to go – but he couldn’t just hear it from anyone.
He waited to hear it from someone who mattered.
He waited to hear that it mattered.
He waited to hear that he mattered.
He waited for the only one with whom he knew he could trust his life.
He waited for the only one for whom he would give his life.
He waited for the man next to him.
He waited because, in the end, the man next to him was all that really mattered.
He waited because he knew the man next to him had always understood.
He departed knowing the man next to him had always had his back, and would someday stand beside another man. The man next to him is who he was fighting for – who they‘re all still fighting for. The rest is just background noise.
Just noise, that is, save for the last man to stand next to and comfort a wounded Marine.
At that moment, the man next to him became every man who’s ever stood at the side of another man in war. At that moment, he more than mattered.
He made a difference.
He made us worthy.
Semper Fidelis, indeed.