Those of you who know me personally know that we lost my nephew Grant in the war in Afghanistan just last spring.
Those of you who have seen the movie Taking Chance know of Michael Strobel, the real-life Marine who volunteered to accompany Chance Phelps' body home from Iraq.
Michael has a brother, Mark, who gets together with others each year to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday and honor fallen soldiers. This year, they included Grant, and here is the email that he sent my brother-in-law Robert, Grant's dad.
Dear Mr. Wichmann,
This past weekend, a few Marines assembled to celebrate the 235th birthday of our Corps. Although our birthday is November 10th, we had to use the weekend as it provided us opportunity to gather. As I had relayed to you back in July, a part of our intimate ceremony would include a reading of the names of our fallen. It was my pleasure to deliver my small part with a remembrance of your son, Grant. The following is an excerpt from that script:
Adjutant: Captain Strobl, report.
Captain Strobl: Sergeant Grant Arthur Wichmann, United States Army
3-61 Cavalry, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, 1st Corps
Capt Strobl: Deceased, sir. April 24, 2010. In the line of duty.
Adjutant: Gentlemen, to our Army brothers.
ALL: (Glasses raised) To Our Army Brothers!
Throughout our dinner, a small glass of whiskey was placed next to the cover bearing Grant’s name place. That shot glass remained full. . . it was for Grant.
Sir, please know that the burden of your son’s loss is shared by every single man and woman who ever donned the uniform of the American fighting man. It is with great reverence that I was able to continue to honor Grant –not only for the man he was but also for everything he represents. The grotesque nature of combat etches memories that, I pray, my children will never realize. But for today, the world is a better place for men like Grant who took up arms and stood between good and evil. To this, a simple ceremony is the very least we can to for our brothers-in-arms who will never have the opportunity to say “Good Night” to their family again.
May the road rise to meet you and the wind be always at your back! And on the 235th anniversary of our Corps, I wish you a very, very Happy Birthday (you’re kind of “one of us” now)!
Semper Fidelis & Carry On,
--Mark “Rawk” Strobl, Captain, USMC (’88-’97)
Tomorrow, I will share thoughts on some of the ways you can honor our country's veterans today and every day.