“I joined the military because I wanted to contribute to something bigger than myself. I wanted to serve my country. I met these two guys in flight school, and then we went on to Guam together, and were in Iraq at the same time. We were deployed to the Naval Air Ambulance Detachment in Basrah flying DUSTOFF (Dedicated Unhesitating Service to our Fighting Forces). Having the two of them out there was the only thing that kept me sane.
“On the 4th of July while we were there, we decorated these remote control cars we had ordered online and had a parade. We were cracking up. The whole base came together for a dodge ball game – Army, Navy, Marines, civilians. We all missed the fireworks that we knew our families at home were enjoying, but it was a nice change not to have things exploding around us. On the 4th, it almost didn’t feel like we were deployed, until we went back to our tents. You can’t ever really fully let your guard down.
“I remember this one time we were in our tent and the siren sounded. You hear ‘incoming, incoming, incoming’ and you hit the deck. So the three of us were laying on the floor listening to explosions and had this real ‘I love you, man!’ moment. Nothing happened to us, and when the ‘all clear’ was given, we stood up and looked at each other and laughed a little awkwardly. We were battle buddies, and now they are family. My kids call them uncles, and I was lucky enough to be deployed again with one of them.
“Freedom isn’t free. The 4th of July is always a great day to celebrate, and it should be. But I want people to remember that the other 364 days a year. We have to remember the big picture of what it is we’re defending at home and abroad. We have to remember what’s at stake. And we have to believe that this country is still worth fighting for.”