I thought about how to approach this weekend and how best to honor those who have given their all in the service of our country. Much has been written by pundits that the butcher bill of today's wars are being paid by those less fortunate, fed mostly by the those who could not find work in other fields. The examples I will write about here will dampen all arguments that serving your country is a penance reservered only for the less fortunate.
With only a fraction of the deaths that our highways produce, the loses in Iraq and Afghanistan cut just as deeply and leave a void among the families and those who knew these brave souls.
Two years ago on the anniversary of his loss, I wrote about Lt. Mark Daily whose memorial service I had the honor of attending. One of the articles linked in that post was recently nominated for one of the Top Ten Works of Journalism of the Decade 2000-2009, Christopher Hitchens, A Death in the Family defines this young man who had the world as his fingertips and chose to serve his country and in his own words wrote home in a final message, "Having the time of his life" when he died.
Another soldier, left his successful practice and a growing family of a wife and two son's, with another on the way; to deploy to Iraq to help set up hospitals only to be killed by a suicide bomber. Major Charles R. Soltes Jr. was just weeks into his tour when his wife and partner, Dr. Sally Dang learned of his death. I met Dr. Dang two years later during an eye examination. As the eye exam progressed, I mentioned to Dr. Dang that I had served in Vietnam. She then shared the story of her husband and his father, a fellow veteran of the Vietnam War and how he struggled with the loss of his son. We talked for some time, and I came away touched by her devotion to remember her husband and honor him by retaining his name on the practice and by sharing her feelings about his devotion to his family and his country. I wrote about Major Soltes last year in this post September 11 2001, In the Rearview Mirror.
A few weeks go I happened upon a story that Major Soltes young son Robert Harrison, whom never met his father, will witness his father's name placed on a new re-hab center for blinded veterans at the Long Beach Veterans Hospital, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Dang and an act of Congress.
Dr. Dang describes talking about Major Soltes this way.
"It feels so natural to talk about him," she said. "This isn't just to honor his memory for our family, but the naming of this blind rehab center will honor all the military optometrists who are working overseas and here."I can vouch for her passion to honor his memory, in the time she devotes to helping wounded veterans with eye injuries and personally meeting with members of Congress to have the new center named for her husband and most of all, the courage to share with the public the lives Dr. Soltes left behind. So I urge you to take the time to view the photos and read the article from the Orange County Register Congress Honors Fallen Irvine Optometrist.
As you read about these brave men and those they left behind, reflect on how blessed we were to have had men such as Mark Daily and Charles Soltes in our midst.
UPDATE: Matt Gallagher, author of Kaboom and the blog, Kerplunk. Knew Mark Daily and wrote this post about him. Remembering Mark