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.