"To Acknowledge Your Presence..."
The other day, I was feeling a little low. Like so many of my peers deployed far away from home, I was having a hard time managing the independence of my family, off to a summer holiday on the East coast, while I was on the other side of the globe. It is a difficult experience to get used to and while it is sometimes more easily accomplished by those of us who have been around the profession of arms for a decade or two, it is still difficult to be away missing so much of the little things that make up a day in a family.
So I was a little low when I entered into our evening staff call. As I sat down to take my place before the briefing started, my friend and fellow Major Tom Wirth sat in his designated space next to me. I felt his hand on my shoulder and he grabbed my neck and patted me on the back. “What?” I snapped. Not letting his hand leave my back, he said, “Nothing, man. I am just taking a moment to acknowledge your presence as a human being and a friend.”
I could only smile and shake my head, totally dumbstruck. Here was a friend at the exact moment I needed one, saying the exact thing that I needed to here. Just to be acknowledged felt like a blessing. It made me feel better and that the day was going to end alright.
Tom Wirth and I first met over the most difficult responsibility an Army officer can have. Together, we disclosed the loss of a Oregon Guard soldier to a mother and father. Two years ago this summer, the Oregon Army National Guard lost Spec. Eric McKinley. Tom was the casualty assistanceofficer and I was the public affairs officer that managed the media on McKinley's mother's behalf. It made for a challenging way to form a friendship, dealing with the consequences of such grief as we were. But it made me respect him for who he was and is, a citizen-soldier managing both a career in business and one as an Army officer, that then had to stop all of that and become a grief counsellor and family assistant when a family needed his help the most. It made me acknowledge him 'as a human being and a friend.' I didn't realize it then, but Tom helped me to realize it two years later in his words the other night.
All of us are deployed away from home and, no matter how close we are to our peers, at times each of us feels alone. But it is through this camaraderie of arms, this, the oldest fraternity known to man, that ‘unites us and binds us,' that we can some times in some brief moment, realize that we are not alone at all.
It is nice to have a friend. Thanks, Tom.