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Thu May 9, 2013, 11:03 AM

God help me- I lost another one.

I learned last night that I lost ANOTHER one of my "boys".


Ben was a "professional PFC". He's one of those guys whom served under me in my platoon when I first was commissioned as a 2LT in the Army National Guard in 1991. He was one of my favorites, because he was Soooooo.....American.

Ben had a habit of being very dependable- right up until the moment he was not. He roller skated one time behind a duce-and-a-half truck. Another time he came back a bit tipsy from a night on the town, and got out water pistols, and screwed around, and got in trouble. He was actually a PFC I think three times, having been demoted after getting into some trouble of one kind or another. He always had a great smile, and moved on.


But he was generally a great kid. I loved him like I loved all of my "kids", who served under my command as a Platoon leader, and later as a company commander. He was one of the 40 or so in my original platoon, and later one of the 160 in the Company I commanded. He was a wire-dog and a mechanic- able to fix just about anything electrical or diesel powered, or if it rolled on wheels, or had wires hooked up to it. Ben could figure it out if you gave him time, and maybe a beer.


Ben struggled with weight a couple times, and it took years for him to get cleared long enough to go to school, and eventually make Sergeant. That was one proud day when I was able, after about 14 years, pin the sergeant stripes on him.

Ben served in Bosnia as a volunteer when they were looking for folks to go. He came back to our unit six months later, and did very well. Although he was older, Ben was always a kid at heart, and did a lot of crazy things- but he was always first and foremost an energetic kid ready to help anybody who needed it, whether they thought they needed it or not.

Early in the Iraq war, Ben joined the unit in deploying to the desert for more than a year. There, the dust and the pressure and the experiece hit Ben hard, but he was a super-trooper, and took care of anyone he had contact with. And we were all overjoyed when Ben came home .

Two weeks before he was back, Ben's son departed for Iraq too. These days, many National Guard folks are second or third generation military. The lack of a draft means that whole segments of our society - generations- now serve in Uniform when most others do not.

And a few months later, Ben's son was killed in an IED explosion in Iraq.


Ben, and the mom never really got over that.

I wrote a letter to the editor about the sacrifices Ben's family had made. That all Americans ought to serve in uniform- and that we needed to bring all of our soldiers home. Later, Ben read it and sent me a thank you note.

Ben went back for a second tour in Iraq. Not sure if he needed it to live. A lot of my boys are like that- once they've been in the sandbox you just can't go back to living "normal" every day. Ben came back from the second tour in Iraq- changed and different.


He struggled back here. He ended up retiring from the Guard. He moved to a farm to raise chickens and goats, and deal with the monsters in his foot locker.

The PTSD monster hit him from time to time just like they crawl into bed with us all. I became facebook friends and watched his comments from time to time, and really didn't think too much of it- as one after another more of my "boys" had something bad happen, or just lost it, or suffered in silence.

Day before yesterday, Ben died. I don't know how, or why, just that he did. He was like five years younger than me.


Now he's the sixth, or seventh of my "boys" who has died waaayyy too young.

For 21 years I served our nation, and met some of the finest young men and women in the entire world. Ben was one of those . All my "kids" are special.



I will miss him greatly.


I am still in shock.


Goodbye my brother.

Rest in peace now.






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Arrow 33 replies Author Time Post
Reply God help me- I lost another one. (Original post)
James48 May 2013 OP
tblue May 2013 #1
annabanana May 2013 #2
barbtries May 2013 #3
kestrel91316 May 2013 #4
Sanity Claws May 2013 #5
SammyWinstonJack May 2013 #6
Bernardo de La Paz May 2013 #7
LiberalLoner May 2013 #16
GoCubsGo May 2013 #8
JohnnyLib2 May 2013 #9
Arugula Latte May 2013 #10
darkangel218 May 2013 #11
KT2000 May 2013 #12
alfredo May 2013 #13
Denis 11 May 2013 #14
heaven05 May 2013 #15
pacalo May 2013 #17
quarbis May 2013 #18
secondvariety May 2013 #19
amerikat May 2013 #20
SunSeeker May 2013 #21
tpsbmam May 2013 #22
davidthegnome May 2013 #23
ornotna May 2013 #24
Half-Century Man May 2013 #25
hrmjustin May 2013 #26
Chellee May 2013 #27
4bucksagallon May 2013 #28
Victor_c3 May 2013 #29
unhappycamper May 2013 #30
TuxedoKat May 2013 #31
malthaussen May 2013 #32
libodem May 2013 #33

Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 11:07 AM

1. Oh. So sad.

I'm so sorry.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 11:09 AM

2. So sorry James48

This thread is a nice tribute to someone who seems to have been a fine man.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 11:12 AM

3. i'm so sorry.

i can't help thinking about the wife/mother. it's too much, just too much.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 11:44 AM

4. Those who predecease us never really die - not as long as they live in the hearts and minds of

those who knew and loved them.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 11:56 AM

5. So sorry to hear

Your post didn't mention how he passed. Was it suicide? Suicide claims so many of our returning soldiers.

Thank you for the tribute to Ben.
The next question, in my mind, is what could have been done?

I mean, in addition to not having more wars. Is the VA not treating PTSD appropriately? Sorry if you talk about these things in other posts. I generally don't visit this group.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 12:16 PM

6. ...

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 12:16 PM

7. Poignant and well written. Thank you for taking the time and for your service. nt

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Response to Bernardo de La Paz (Reply #7)

Thu May 9, 2013, 01:47 PM

16. +1

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 12:41 PM

8. I'm so sorry.

What a loss.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 12:51 PM

9. So sorry. You honor him with this post.


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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 12:58 PM

10. And for what ...

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 12:59 PM

11. Im so sorry for your loss :(



Just remember he is in a better place. His spirit is still alive and always will be.


X x

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 01:02 PM

12. I am so sorry

This is a lovely tribute to him. RIP

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 01:03 PM

13. Rest in peace brother.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 01:20 PM

14. Sorry for your loss.

Thank you for the tribute to your friend. I'll pray for him tonight at Mass.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 01:42 PM

15. may

he and his son be at peace. How sad and all directly related to a 'war' based on lies.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 04:11 PM

17. I'm sure Ben was grateful to have had you as his platoon leader.

Your beautifully written tribute to Ben serves as a reminder of how much personal sacrifice is involved with being in the military. We humans don't have on/off buttons; our experiences stay with us.

My condolences to Ben's family.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 07:15 PM

18. all who serve in Combat zones find that

They got killed there and are just waiting to fall over.
Some sooner than others but eventually the experience is going finish you.
I'm on borrowed time as I'm older than the age 62 which the average age
of Vietnam Vets at death.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 07:37 PM

19. I'm sorry for your loss.

America's loss, too.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 08:57 PM

20. You sound like a great CO.

Thanks for taking care of all those kids.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 11:09 PM

21. Heartbreaking. Peace to you and yours. nt

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 11:37 PM

22. Had I a son or daughter in the military, my hope would be for a commanding officer like you

Your deep, heartfelt caring for each of the men in your company is evident. I hope for you to find a sense of peace knowing that you've embraced each of those individuals as valued members of your military family. As a female child of a WWII vet, I know how much that family can mean -- even after Dad's death, I've stayed in touch with his old shipmates because I know how important they'd been to him when he was alive. They came from dramatically different backgrounds and led dramatically different lives after the war, but they were always brothers linked by their lives together in the military.

May you gain a measure of peace knowing that you did what you could to make Ben's life better in and out of the military. It sounds like he was lucky to have a commanding officer who recognized his weaknesses were also his strengths, as is true for most of us, and truly appreciated the great guy it sounds like he was. That damn PTSD is more prevalent and more devastating for some than many people reLize or acknowledge. I hope he didn't suffer too horribly from it and it isn't what got him in the end. I hate these damn wars that never should have been fought....Iraq & Vietnam most glaring and obvious among them....and what they've done to so many lives in Vietnam, Iraq and here. Break my heart, and does so specifically for you and Ben.

RIP, Ben. Even those of us who didn't know you are impacted by your death and I hope there weren't things we could have done to help you and didn't. It's a lesson all of us should learn, even if that might have been the case.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Thu May 9, 2013, 11:58 PM

23. You remind me of another military man I know.

He's quite a bit younger than you, but he and I went to school together. I remember, some years after he came home from Iraq (having served previously in Afghanistan) - I asked him why he did it. He told me that he'd done it so that guys like me wouldn't have to. At the time, I wasn't sure if it was self serving bull shit or if that really was his reason. Now that I know him a little better - the man he has become, I believe him fully.

One night we stayed up late drinking, and ended up having to crash at my sister's apartment. We weren't really drunk, but neither were we going to drive for a while. Under the influence, I had a bit more nerve than usual and started asking him about some of the horror stories I had heard of Iraq, the terrible things that were often posted here or even spoken of on television. He didn't bother to deny them, or tell me that this stuff didn't happen. He said that, instead, he focused on the good things that were done there - and for all the evil, there was good as well.

He told me of getting books, toys, candy... little things for children who had nothing. Of helping to deliver the simple necessities of food and water to families that desperately needed it. He mentioned several kids by name, that he had come to know in his time there, almost as if they were his own children, or at least a part of his family.

I have a deep, heartfelt respect and gratitude for men like you and my friend. I will not say I respect all military, for that would be an outrageous lie. I respect decent men and women who wear the uniform with honor - who honor their titles, and their uniforms.

If my friend had never come back, I would never have had the chance to get to know him as adults. I would never have heard his stories, or had any sort of feeling that there was at least SOME humane redemption during the terror of the Iraq war. I would have been sad, but not nearly as much as if something were to happen to him today, now that I know him better.

I can only imagine the pain of losing so many friends who must have been as close to you as brothers, or as your own children. Words are not adequate...

So let me simply say thank you. Thank you for your dedicated service, for caring for these boys... my friend might have been one, I might have been one, had things been a little different in my own life.

One of the things that ties us all together as human beings sharing this often hellish planet... is that we all know we're eventually going the way of the dinosaur. I hope that, in the grand scheme of things, something of our essence (call it spirit, energy, whatever) might continue. It is stories like yours, so deep and heartfelt, that often give me hope that this is so. If this is true, then you will all meet again. If it is not, they are still with you as long as you keep the memories alive.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 12:02 AM

24. I am sorry for your loss

May he rest in peace.


No need to apologize.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 12:03 AM

25. I like to believe

I like to believe that somewhere, most probably just outside of hell there will be one more muster. And once again, we stand shoulder to shoulder.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 12:19 AM

26. I am so sorry for your loss. n/t

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 01:39 AM

27. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and his family.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 04:31 AM

28. I do believe this but I have changed my view now having discourse with enough Republicans on forums.

"That all Americans ought to serve in uniform"
My new take is mandatory service with no deferments no preferential treatment minimum of 2 years active duty and the first year MUST be in a line company or infantry. If you want to go into the Air Force or Navy and since they really don't have infantry you must first become a Marine or Regular Army basic infantry first. THEN and only then can you pick and choose your MOS or branch of service. All Marines are first and foremost 0311 basic infantry, then you go on from there to pick your skill set. Want to stop these insane wars of choice? Make it so, and watch them end. It's just my opinion and I am entitled to it. I don't expect many will agree with me that is why it is called an opinion. I am sick of the pukes like Ted Nugent and others becoming heroes of the right having done nothing positive and defended by cowardly yellow bellied chicken hawks.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 05:59 AM

29. To all people who have served, this war has taken a heavy toll

If you serve in a MOS that is likely to end up "boots on the ground", you likely have known many people who have been lost in the war.

You kind of skirted around this, but the Army is a small community. I did 5.5 years active and moved around a couple of different units and it was amazing how often I would run across a guy that I went to school with or a buddy from a previous unit or a commander that I had worked with before. There are lots of familiar faces floating around the Army.

In many ways, the wars have taken and continue to take a huge toll on those of us who have served.

My heart and thoughts go out to you and Ben's family that must be hit especially hard by this.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 07:41 AM

30. Losing comrades is always painful.

Fortunately I was an REMF in Vietnam and rarely made it out into the bush. I did however, spend five or six weeks in Cambodia when we invaded it in April 1970.

After I came back from Cambodia I ended up as the NCOIC of MARS station AB8AJ in Cu Chi. I adopted Trackers, LRRPs and grunts - if we were talking to a stateside connection I would do my damnedest to make sure they got a phone call home.

I'm sorry for y/our loss James48.



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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 08:38 AM

31. So sorry for your loss

of your dear friend. He sounds like he was a wonderful person, the kind you would love to have as a friend. (((HUGS)))

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 09:36 AM

32. A toast to absent friends. n/t

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri May 10, 2013, 10:34 AM

33. Thank you for sharing that beautiful memorial

I lost my younger brother this week and he would be well served if I could capture his life, half.as well as you have here, for this man. Fine job.

It leaves me a little sadder and heartsick over the carnage and uselessness of war but wiser in the ways of the world. It is what it is. Dammit.

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