Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Finding Jon Stiles

I started this blog to capture, and share, my experiences related to this war. Somewhere, this thing took on a life of its own, and it has become many things. Some have followed this since fairly early on, and back when I first started writing it, it was all about experiences, feelings, perceptions... the stuff that one man feels as he goes through playing his small part.

This blog has changed. After returning home, I didn't know what to do with it or even if I should keep writing. Describing this process to a university professor who uses it in her classroom for some of her assignments to journalism students, I had to find my "post-deployment voice." She thought that a very apt phrase, and expressed her disappointment that some never do. I have turned to a very different type of writing. I have been sharing what I see with my changed eyes; the way that I view the war, what is said and written about it, and what I see concerning our successes and, all too often, our challenges to being successful. It has become something different.

Today is about a singularly wartime experience. No high-minded bullshit about COIN or Afghanistan in broad, sweeping terms. This is about an experience.

How all this came about is a long story. Perhaps I can tell that more clearly tomorrow. It needs to be told. It is a small story, just a wee part of a much bigger story, but a little long. Today I will do my version of brief.

God brings people in and out of our lives. Some stay and have meaning, and some just pass through. As we pass through the web of life, we weave our own web and we touch each other's lives. Sometimes our webs only touch briefly, and sometimes they bind together and are knotted forming lasting bonds. Soldiers understand this, and they also understand that some of those lasting bonds have long periods of lapsed communications, especially when one or the other is deployed. It's not unusual. But we always touch base again. Those are the people that you can not talk to for a year, but when you do, it's like it's only been a couple of weeks. You know the type.

Sometimes you have to look for your friends... the ones who are worth looking for. They are the ones who will look you up, too.

It's funny that, when you meet someone, you never know if the webs are just brushing or if you are going to develop the kind of friendship that lasts a lifetime.

Jon Stiles is one of those whose web is bound to my own. He was one of the people I took the time to call when I was home on leave, even though he moved to Colorado a couple of years ago. He was excited to tell me that he had found a deployment to Afghanistan. He arrived in Afghanistan shortly after I left, and we exchanged a few emails... a very few emails. He spent most of his internet time, when he had any, chatting with his wife as their time frames overlapped from across the world; he on the end of his day, she on the front end of hers. I've never met a better husband than Jon. That guy could be an example of "this is how you do this right" in any pre-marriage seminar. It was no big deal not to hear from him for long periods. I last heard from him on October 7th. Before that it had been July. He was busy living his deployment.

Jon went active in March of 2007, so he should be coming off of active duty soon. I had started to wonder, and then I tried his cell phone. Still disconnected. Lots of guys shut off their phones while deployed. No big deal.

Then I tried Google and my heart broke instantly when I saw this at the top of the list.

I still can't keep it together. Thank God I'm by myself right now.

Today, all I can do is feel. All I can do is hurt. My heart is broken.

Jon was killed on November 13th, 2008 in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. I'm not connected to his family, and so I just went to check on my friend from Colorado who should be coming home soon only to find that he has been home for almost four months now. Now I know why he has not had time to email me about how his tour is going. His tour ended in November.

I will tell more about this, hopefully, tomorrow. Jon Stiles jumped through a million hoops to get back into the service and he couldn't wait to do his part and make a contribution. His story puts to shame all those who have never raised a finger to put themselves in harm's way for this nation, and I will tell it the best way that I can.

When I can.

I'm having problems seeing my keyboard. All I could think to do is write about it, to get it down and express it. It's one of the few tools I have to deal with such things. But I don't think it's helping.

Here are some pictures of his funeral. It looks like they did a good job for Jon. Jon served on that Honor Guard before he deployed. He gave the same honors to many before receiving them himself.

Jon was an exemplary man. I mean that in every sense of the word. He was just simply exemplary.

I want to thank the Patriot Guard Riders for keeping the vultures away from Jon. If anyone who reads this is a Patriot Guard Rider, please know that what you do is important, and I thank you for it.


  1. I'm so sorry. I wish I could hold you until the pain goes away, but I don't think it ever does. Besides, would it even help? I pray for his family and you to have the Comfort only God can so freely give. Lean on Him, Bear. It doesn't matter if you don't know the words, the Holy Spirit knows them for you. I wish I was closer to where you live. Maybe it's better I'm not? I don't know what to say or do, so I leave you with this. He was a Hero. He lived as a Hero. He fought as a Hero. He is now in Heaven on Heroes Row. God bless him and all of his friends and family.

  2. Blue, I'm so very sorry. SO sorry.
    My prayers and tears are with you and Jon and all who loved him.

  3. Brother, it is hard to find the right words, if there are any. We have all lost comrades; it is part of who we are - and also they. Why him? And not me? Or you? Answers to such questions are not permitted us in this world. But be resolved that he died honorably and in a noble cause.

    "Now you will not swell the rout
    Of lads that wore their honours out,
    Runners whom renown outran
    And the name died before the man.
    -A.E. Housman from "To an Athlete Dying Young".

    -Rurik, RVN 1969-70, PGR

  4. Jon: "You have fought the good fight" I Timothy.

    Blue: My thoughts are with you and with Jon's family. There are no words to remove the pain. There are only memories of Honor to embrace.

  5. Blue,
    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

    There are no words that I nor anyone can speak that will ease your hurting heart. Yet we still try because we care.

    May your memories of Jon bring a smile to your face, and keep his spirit alive in your heart. A warrior's heart always recognizes another warrior. As you did him.

    May God wrap you and Jon's family in his loving embrace to bring you all peace and healing.
    Our prayers will be never ceasing.

  6. Since I moved to America from India, more than a decade and half ago, I have been wondering, why is America so far ahaead of India?
    Is it geographical luck? No!
    Is it the protestant work ethic? No!
    Is it the founding fathers? No!

    America is great because she is blessed with an abundant supply of men like Jon Stiles.

  7. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 03/12/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  8. I'm deeply saddened to read of the loss of your good friend Jon Stiles. My heart goes out to you and his family. Please accept my sincere condolences in your time of grief.

    At times like these I find some small comfort in the words of WWI poet and Soldier, Laurence Binyon.

    "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them."

    For The Fallen.

  9. Blue: So very sorry. Tears can spill down the face of one who did not know but does know the pain that loss of the beloved causes. He was doing what he wanted and as least his giving of himself had meaning. A person can serve and come home and meet another car at the wrong time and place and loose their life without as much giving of self. Not that it means that much but I would rather see a life lived and given that had a purpose than wasting it and dying for no higher purpose. Take care of youself. I read Vampire and you have given him a great deal of strength to continue his battle. Thank you for all that you do.

  10. I am so sorry...

    Please know that you are not alone, that you are joined by many who have taken the walk of pain with you, through the valley of grief. We all walk with you now and I hope you can feel it.

    Be proud of Jon, be proud of having someone of such decency and character in your life, for however long it was. He was brought to you for a reason, he passed on his lesson and someday, you will see him again.

  11. Blue,

    I am a Gold Star Dad. My son Sergeant Eddie Jeffers was killed in Iraq on September 19, 2007. Eddie was well known for writing "Hope Rides Alone." If you're not familiar with it come visit my blog and click the link "Eddie's Articles" and you can find it there.

    Grief is a strange animal with which to wrestle. I love it and hate it. I need it some days. There are times when it seems that I haven't grieved for Eddie enough that I miss it. I need the connection to him. Sometimes I don't feel my love for him enough without the grief.

    All of this is good. You cannot understand it and after 18 months I am only beginning to be able to describe it.

    My pastor said that it will be a lifetime of episodic grief but that is living proof of God's mercy. If we were to experience all the grief at once it would literally kill us.

    Losing someone you love is a miserable thing to do and yet it is proof of your love for that person.

    Grieve when the grief comes my dear brother. Do not shun it; do not avoid it. When it comes, embrace it. You don't get better with time; you just get used to it. It is now part of your life but it is how you live on. It is how you honor Jon. It is how I honor Eddie.

    I am here for you Blue. Contact me anytime my brother.

  12. Blue, thanks for telling us about Jon Stiles so we could get to know him, remember him, and grieve for him, too.

    As Dave so wisely notes, our grief represents our love for him; it honors him.

    Dave, you know many of us love and honor Eddie in the same way. I well remember the days of 18 months ago, and met K.K. here shortly afterwards. I think you will know who I mean.

    Hugs to both of you and God bless.

  13. Among all else, he was blessed with a true and wonderful friend. That is one of the rearest and greatest gifts we can receive in the course of our lives. You gave him that gift. My heart goes out to you and to his family. All of you are in my prayers in this difficult time.

  14. Some do go through our lives and leave no mark on our hearts. Others, although gone from our human view, remain as part of our hearts for all eternity.

    YOU are blessed for having Jon as part of your heart, and WE are blessed because of the marks you leave on our hearts.

    Thank YOU for sharing your heart with us. MY prayers for ALL who love Jon.

  15. Blue, my prayers are with you as you deal with the loss of a brother. My prayers are also with Jon's family as they no doubt are still suffering with the loss.

  16. God Bless men like you and Jon. Thank you for your service and your deep commitment to our Country. Keep up the good fight my friend and never forget.

  17. Wordsmith,

    Sory about your friend. I can only offer you the same support you offered me after Collin passed. It's not in person but it's still there. Any time you need to talk you have my number


  18. Thank you, everyone, for taking time to leave a comment, and for sharing some grief with me for a good man. We all go into this knowing that we risk things in a time of war. Jon paid the full measure, and his wife paid her full measure. My loss is nothing compared to the loss of Launa and Jon's family.

    The best part is that perhaps each one who has read this will share a thought about Jon. Then he will live forever.

    Thank you especially to Rurik for his work keeping the vultures away from our fallen, and to Dave Jeffers for sharing some of his pain by way of empathy. My respects to SGT Eddie Jeffers and all who loved him in life and feel the pain of his loss.

    Thank you for sharing, Sir.

    Thanks to all of the Soldiers' Angels, who care for so many Soldiers in life and share our pain so willingly when we have loss. There are truly Angels in this world. Bless each of you.



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