Yes, I know my posts haven't been about training or anything even remotely sports-related lately, but for now I'm okay with that. That's the way it goes sometimes. I'll get back to the training reports later.
My subject today is patriotism. I'm a bit torn because of some events taking place this weekend.
Tonight I'm driving down to the Harlingen airport (about 45 minutes from home) to join my fellow Patriot Guard Riders and welcome Mark home, my former student and newly minted United States Marine who graduated from MCRD San Diego. I am so proud of him I could burst. I can't wait to see him, to give him the 3rd Recruit Battalion challenge coin I got him as a gift, to tell him how incredibly proud I am of him and what he has accomplished. I'm also interested to see how he has changed after going through three months of the toughest military training there is.
My pride in him is tempered by sadness at the news of the death of another RGV soldier, United States Army Pfc. Ira Laningham of Zapata. I posted his story on the RGVPGR website a couple of days ago. The RGVPGR will be at the McAllen airport tomorrow afternoon to stand a flag line for this young soldier and honor his sacrifice as he arrives home to be laid to rest.
This is the dichotomy of which I speak - being so proud of the members of our military for their brave service, yet struggling with the inevitable sadness that comes when any of these brave heroes fall. They and their friends and family know when they enlist and take on this challenge that the day may come when they will be sent into harm's way...and yet, they join without hesitation. They join because they are brave and strong and have an incredible sense of duty. I wish I was that brave.
It's strange - I'm so thrilled to be able to welcome Mark home tonight...but at the same time, I'm afraid for him. I'm so proud of him for choosing to serve his country...yet I am selfishly hoping he gets stationed where he won't be in harm's way. I know Mark, and I know he will unselfishly go where he is called and will not back down from any danger he may encounter. We need men and women like this in our military.
Tonight we have a Marine arriving home on a plane. He's just beginning his military career. He will have family and friends there to greet him, to hug him and cry tears of joy, to welcome him with open arms.
Tomorrow, we have an Army soldier arriving home on a plane, too...but his military career is over. He, too, will have family and friends there to greet him, but there will be no hugs, no tears of joy.
This is why I am torn. It's going to be an emotional weekend.
Welcome home, Mark.
Rest in peace, Pfc. Laningham.