Memorial Day is a time to reflect upon the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. For those who served in times of conflict, it is a difficult and emotional time.
Freedom is not free, and too many of us have lost those we’ve known. Some of those we’ve lost we knew very well. Others, not so well — but each of them were family to us.
As a military journalist, both in the Marine Corps and in the National Guard, I had to write stories on memorials units held for their fallen. Each time it was difficult, but knowing them will always be the hardest thing I ‘ve ever done.
My last duty station in the Marine Corps was at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. While serving as a press chief, I often ensured I wrote the stories of deploying units.
At the end of March 2003, we received word that one of our pilots was killed in a CH-46E helicopter crash in Kuwait. Marine Maj. Jay Aubin, who I had interviewed prior to his deployment, was killed.
Aubin, 36, a Maine native, was a member of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1. He helped train pilots to work hand-in-hand with infantry and artillery to coordinate air support for troops on the ground. He was a well-spoken, motivated and dedicated officer concerned about the lives of fighting troops and he is sorely missed.
But he will be remembered, because I will not forget.
Another Marine I interviewed prior to deployment was a hard-charger, Sgt. Fernando Padilla-Ramirez. He was a gung-ho, 26-year-old Arizona native and a member of Marine Wing Support Squadron-371, Marine Wing Support Group-37, who loved life and the Corps. He was killed in action conducting convoy operations near Al Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 28, 2003. His remains were not identified for nearly two weeks.
The month I left the Marines and went into the Guard, one of my mentors from my Headquarters Squadron was struck by an anti-tank mine in Al Taqaddum, Iraq. Master Sgt. Kenneth Hunt Jr. was our training noncommissioned officer and a friend who was always available to help his junior NCOs. He deployed with Marine Wing Support Group-37. He died of his injuries Oct. 12, 2005.
He will always be missed.
When I deployed with the Guard to Basra, in southern Iraq, we lost a young military policeman from Fort Hood. His name was Spc. Daniel Elliott of North Carolina., an MP with the 805th MP Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. He was killed by an improvised explosive device whie on patrol July 15, 2011. Three days before his 22nd birthday.
So on this Memorial Day, I will bring these names once more to the forefront. They will not be forgotten, and their sacrifice will not be in vain.