It was raining "cats and dogs" and I was late for physical
Traffic was backed up at Fort Campbell, Ky., and was
moving way too slowly.
I was probably going to be late and I was growing more and more
The pace slowed almost to a standstill as I passed
Memorial Grove, the site built to honor the soldiers who died in the
Gander airplane crash, the worst redeployment accident in the history of
the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Because it was close to Memorial Day, a small American
flag had been placed in the ground next to each soldier's memorial
My concern at the time, however, was getting past the
bottleneck, getting out of the rain and getting to PT on time.
All of a sudden, infuriatingly, just as the traffic
was getting started again, the car in front of me stopped.
A soldier, a private of course, jumped out in the
pouring rain and ran over toward the grove.
I couldn't believe it! This knucklehead was holding up
everyone for who knows what kind of prank. Horns were honking. I waited
to see the butt-chewing that I wanted him to get for making me late.
He was getting soaked to the skin. His BDUs were
plastered to his frame.
I watched-as he ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the
small American flag that had fallen to the ground in the wind and the
rain, and set it upright again.
Then, slowly, he came to attention, saluted, ran back
to his car, and drove off.
I'll never forget that incident. That soldier, whose name I will never
know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books
or a thousand lectures.
That simple salute -- that single act of honoring his
fallen brother and his flag -- encapsulated all the Army values in one
gesture for me. It said, "I will never forget. I will keep the
faith. I will finish the mission. I
a man American soldier."
I thank God for examples like that.
And on this Memorial Day, I will remember all those
who paid the ultimate price for my freedom, and one private, soaked to
the skin, who honored them.