Monday was not the easiest way to start a week.
Writing this post is even more that difficult.
This morning I caught a news feed that read “Two Illinois National Guardsmen Killed in Afghanistan”.
Immediately my heart dropped.
Having safely returned home from Iraq in March 2006, I felt so blessed that every soldier from C 2/123rd Field Artillery returned home safely. A few scares but nothing more than close call stories that you can share with friends every now and then.
After nine years of National Guard service I retired. It's hard to walk away from something that's been part of your life for so long, but I knew it was time. Others that deployed with me felt they had more to offer.
More to sacrifice. One of those soldiers was SSG Joshua Melton.
SSG Melton was only an E-4 Specialist when we were in Baghdad. He quickly jumped up in rank upon arriving home showing his loyalty and love for his country.
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He didn't have to go back.
He could be home with his wife and his one year old daughter. Many of my buddies that were previously deployed didn't have to go.
SSG Melton made the ultimate sacrifice.
26 years of age, SSG Melton's vehicle was hit while on a convoy in Afghanistan. He wasn't the only killed that day.
I also learned that another was killed and two other soldiers were injured; including another one that deployed with me to Iraq. He was flown to Germany. At this time I don't know the extent of his injuries. All I can do is pray.
Update: The soldier sustained serious injuries, but has fully recovered and is home safe.
Now I sit here not sure what to do. I want to call SSG Melton's family and tell them how sorry I am. To see his wife and daughter and tell them that their husband/daddy is a hero.
For now I just reminisce of the memories I have of him. Of his quirky sense of humor. All the while trying to really believe that the news story is right. That it's his name that I read as the latest fatality.
It can't be?
I tribute this post to you. For the sacrifice that you made for me and my family and this country that you loved.
You weren't asked; you just did. You will always be remembered. You will always be my hero.
“He which hath no stomach to this fight let him depart. But we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!! For he today, that sheds his blood with me, shall always be my brother”. Rest in peace my Brothers, you have not been forgotten. (W.Shakespeare)
You can see more pictures of Josh and his family at his tribute site here.