HOLD THE LINE | TIME IN THE DESERT

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“You lose track of time when you are deployed. You’re not really sure what day it is – Let alone the month. The way I tracked time was by events. Things like holidays and birthdays work out well when you are with a bunch of friends – Someone is always getting ready to celebrate something. “Sherm” was one of the guys in my platoon. He was an awesome guy. Always had a smile on his face, and always had a lighter even though he didn’t smoke.HtL5_Newsletter

One day, we were getting ready to roll out of the compound for a mission and Sherm walked to the vehicles with me even though he wasn’t rolling with us that night. He reminded me that it was almost Thanksgiving and said I’d better make sure I didn’t do anything stupid, because he didn’t want to set my place for me at the table in the chow hall. See, when deployed, we set a place at the table for our fallen brothers as a way to honor their memory. We geared up and headed out. That night, my vehicle was hit by an IED. A big one. I ended up breaking my leg and got evacuated to the CSH. As soon as I could sneak out of my hospital room, I hobbled outside for a smoke. Just as I started to get frustrated because I couldn’t find a lighter, I heard a familiar North-eastern accent in the dark say “What the hell did I tell you?”. I looked up and saw Sherm’s face in the dim flicker of his lighter’s flame. He’d jumped on a convoy that was headed to the base I was at, to make sure I was alright. He was a good dude like that.

Thanksgiving came and went and we checked that marker off of our mental calendar… That much closer to going home. A few weeks and a few missions later, Sherm and I found ourselves headed up to the main base, escorting the command element of our company to a meeting. This was great news for us because it meant hot showers, soft beds, shopping at the PX and best of all, we were picking up mail. Christmas was getting close, so the packages were coming from home, full of good food and memories of loved ones. When it was time to head back to the company, we ended up swapping places in the convoy. His vehicle was full of mail and packages, so he couldn’t bring up the rear of the convoy. That meant my vehicle was pushed to the rear position and Sherm was in front of me. We did our checks and staged to roll. As we were driving through the dark, I remember thinking that this place wasn’t so bad. I was full, rested, and bringing a Stryker full of Christmas presents back to my friends. Looking at the glow of Sherm’s vehicle in my thermals – it was that moment that I saw the flash. The deafening blast sucked the wind out of my chest. Sherm’s vehicle was hit. When we stopped, I could see the burning letters floating through the sky like giant fireflies.

That Christmas, I set Sherm’s place at the table for the fallen.

Every holiday, deployed or at home, I set an extra space. There is always a plate and a drink for my friends that can’t make it. They are warmly remembered for the small things, and they will never be forgotten.”

– Steve M.
US Army Retired

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