I’ve been moving, so I haven’t posted in awhile, my apologies.
With Memorial Day coming up, I decided to post something a little off topic. I hope y’all don’t mind. Last week I went to visit my Great Grandmother’s grave for Mother’s Day. While there, I sat and had a chew with my cousin and Brother in Arms, Joe Higginbotham. He was my inspiration for this post.
Growing up, Joe and I were two peas in a pod. We both shared a lot of the same thoughts, ideas (good and very bad), a love of the outdoors and a desire to do our duty by serving our country. Picture two 10 year old boys, sitting by the creek having a discussion about how important we thought it was that WE do OUR part to protect our way of life not only for ourselves, but for our family and everyone else that calls the United States home. It seems odd to me now that we started having these discussions starting at such a young age, but at the time it did not seem unusual at all.
While we both felt the same strong desire to do our part, we had one area that we disagreed on and it became an ongoing argument for years while we were growing up. The argument? I felt that the best way for us to do our duty was to enlist in the Army and become the best Soldiers we could be. Joe on the other hand was adamant that we become Marines. I can’t tell you how many hours we debated this, but it was often and became quite heated at times. When I was 17 and it was time for me to enlist, Joe’s (as well as my recruiter Sgt. Wall’s) arguments persuaded me and I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Joe still had another year of school before he could enlist. I visited him while stationed nearby and we made plans to meet up in the Fleet.
Time went by and I hadn’t heard from him, but I figured the Corps was keeping him as busy as I, and that we would cross paths eventually. Then one morning I recieved a phone call that changed my life. My father called and told me that I needed to call my Uncle; Joe had been killed and I was requested to be part of his service. I was shocked, there was nothing going on at the time (Cold War). What could have happened? When I found out where he was, I could not find any Marine units that were in that part of Germany and became more confused. I called my Uncle and got what details I could. What I remember most of that conversation was me asking “What the hell was he doing there? We don’t have anyone over there.”. My Uncle’s response was, “That’s where the Army sent him.”. The Army! What the fuck was he doing in the Army? He talked me into the Marine Corps! “They’re tougher, they have harder training, they’re the first to go when things get bad, they’re the best…” were his arguments. I’ll never know why we switched places like that or what changed his mind, but the fact remained that he did and now he was gone. He was 19 years old. My cousin, my friend, my Brother in Arms that shared the same name was gone. Every time that I go through any significant life event (the births of my children, marriage, etc.), I can’t help but wonder why it’s me that gets to have those experiences and not him.
So where am I going with this, you might be asking yourself? While visiting him last week I got to thinking about how strongly we felt about doing our duty. We wanted to serve and protect all those that couldn’t do so themselves. Even as very young men, we had known that we may have to give our life and we felt that it would be a worthwhile sacrifice. We understood that we were serving something much bigger than ourselves and we were honored to do so. We aren’t alone. There are a great many men and women, before us and after us, that answered that same calling and were willing to give their own lives, so that others could live in a country that allowed them to follow their dreams and live free. Most of you didn’t know Joe, or many of the other Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers and Marines that gave everything so that we could live the “American Dream”. So what I’d like to ask of everyone that reads this is just this simple request:
This Memorial Day, while at the lake, a barbeque, family dinner or quietly eating alone; please raise a glass to Joe Higginbotham and all the other Veterans that were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. For people that they may not have agreed with or known, so that we could live free from oppression. Explain to a child how these men and women, whether or not we agree with whatever conflict they may have been involved in, loved them and gave their lives for them; and that kind of love and selflessness should always be appreciated and never forgotten. Let that child know that everytime they see a man or woman in uniform or meet a veteran, that before them goes a stranger that is/ was willing to give up their own lives and dreams so that they may live without fear and with the freedom to follow their own dreams.
Many of the men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice for us aren’t known to us. Many don’t have a story that is “Hollywood worthy”, but they are MY heroes. More so than any Hollywood entertainer or athelete will ever be. Joe and the many others like him are the reason we enjoy the lives we have. Please honor and remember them, not just on Memorial Day, but every day!