I'm stepping aside from talking about writing on my blog this weekend. Instead, I am dedicating this post to the fallen in honor of Memorial Day.
I am the proud wife of a retired soldier who served in Bosnia and Iraq for our country. He is my husband of 12 years, best friend, and phenomenal father, but more importantly he is a hero. I am so lucky he came home from war without a scratch on his body, but so many more were not as fortunate.
Seven years ago, I met a young man in my Sophomore English class. His name was Randy Braggs. He lit up my room each time he walked in with his infectious smile and laughter. He may not have been an A student, but he worked hard and did well considering. After a year with him, I was sad not to teach eleventh grade English, but instead of not seeing him in my room as a student every day, he would stop by to say hi at least three days a week, sometimes more. He still had that smile making even the worst days a little better. his senior year, he was in my class once again as a student. He told me he wanted to join the Marines and I told him it was a great idea. The only problem was that he needed to lose about 100 pounds before getting in. I watched as his determination drove him to eat right and exercise all year. He did exactly what he set out to do. He lost enough weight to enter the Marine Corp. He graduated with the class of 2008 and entered the Marines in time. When he completed basic, he came to see me so proud of his new uniform. He wanted to share his accomplishments with me knowing I would always encourage him to do his best. In the three years he was in high school, he became a son to me. We would talk about the future and what inspired him. He was a wonderful person, so the fact that we stayed in touch after graduation meant the world to me. When he came home on leave for Christmas, he always took the time to stop by my house to share some milk and cookies with my family and in-laws. He was such a sweetheart - always, and always very respectful. In the fall of 2010, he received orders to Afghanistan. He came to school in his dress blues to visit before he left. He wanted to show me and a few others how much he had grown into a young man in his blues. We took pictures, he talked to my students, and he promised he would come see me when he got back. The day he left our town to return to base, he called my cell phone. I answered the phone and all I heard was, "Mom? Mom?" I was confused to say the least and said, "Who is this?" He said, "It's Randy." He was calling to say good bye because he knew we wouldn't get a chance to talk before he shipped out. I made him promise to be safe and to come home in one piece. He promised.
Monday, November 8th, I stayed home sick from work because one of my kids wasn't feeling well. I was cleaning when my phone rang. It was my principal. She told me that someone had come to the school to tell us that Randy was killed in action, but they wanted us to know. It hit the news that night and the paper the next morning. I wanted to crawl into a hole knowing that I would never see him again.
November 15th was his service and it was truly a spectacular service. He was buried at the Veteran's Cemetery and was given a full military service. It was so windy, but there were still dozens of flags flying creating the most beautiful picture one could ask for. That day, I said good-bye to a student, friend, son, and now a hero. I will always love him and miss him. For Memorial Day this year, I honor him and all other fallen members of the armed forces. I hope that you do the same.
R.I.P. Lance Corporal Randy Rashad Braggs March 4, 1989-November 6, 2010
It was an honor knowing you.