This day, this Memorial Day is much different than any I've ever experienced. I think back to the days of marching band in junor high and high school and the long march we had around town to the cemetery. I remember my sore feet from marching and the lines of people along the parade route. And the flags.....they were everywhere. Along the streets....at the gravesites....and the magnificent one with the color guard.
But this Memorial Day is unusual, because of the commitment you made some two years ago to our country's military. Last year you were here with us. This Memorial Day, you are far away in Afghanistan. That alone is pretty hard to come to grips with.
I'm also trying to absorb another aspect of this day. Friday, we learned Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski, 28 of Ottumwa, died when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. A second airman, Tech Sgt. Kristoffer M. Solebee, 32, of Citrus Heights, Calif, also died in the attack. The incident occurred in the Shorabak district of Kandahar province.
Immediately, my thoughts turned to Staff Sgt. Hamski's family. What must they be going through? How are they holding up? Friday afternoon, when so many in our country were making plans for the long Memorial Day weekend, Staff Sgt. Hamski's family was boarding a plane enroute to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where they'd meet the remains of their fallen soldier. I can NOT imagine how a mother could endure such a moment.....not to mention a recently married wife, Staff Sgt. Maria Christian Hamski. Forever, their Memorial Day will have a whole new significance, albeit a heart breaking one.
I tell you these things son because they'll mean so much more to you later on. You're busy right now and I don't want to change what your focus should be. It seems like you and your troops are taking a mission every day....and if you're not doing that your dodging incoming mortars at night. Just stay the course. But put this journal note down for something to come back to. It will give you a new understanding of Memorial Day.
Why? Listen to one of Staff Sgt. Hamski's best friends, Gabriel Stoffa as he shares some thoughts. "And for Joe's friends and family, I wish we had all had more time with him. I wish we had gotten to say goodbye to Joe in old age as he complained about any of the far-reaching topics he would so gladly bitch about over drinks with friends. He would have made a great crotchety old man; hell, he basically was one, just without the old age". Despite all the hurt inside by his loss, Stoffa hit on a comment with a great sense of humor. His comment will be a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice, his best friend, Staff Sgt. Joseph Hamski made.
It wouldn't be to far fetched to think Hamksi's friends and family will be telling stories of the one that helped others put a face on Memorial Day...the reason we need to hold this Holiday with the utmost respect. Staff Sgt. Joseph Hamski, we salute you, now and forever.
Hamski is survived by his wife, Air Force Staff Sgt. Maria Christina Hamski, and his mother, Mary Ellen Winston, of Ottumwa; two sisters, Hensley of Shakopee, Minn., and Nicole Friedman of Blakesburg; and a brother, Thomas Hamski of Nevada.
|U.S. Soldiers place lit candles to mark Memorial Day 2011 in Afghanistan|
To add further proof of a much different Memorial Day, this came from the FoxNews wires late Sunday night.
"Kabul Afghanistan-Nearly a decade later, after more than 1,400 killed in combat, some U.S. troops paused for a moment Sunday to remember what brought Americans to Afghanistan and to honor the lives that continue to be lost. Blackhawk helicopters churned through the night sky as a strong wind coming over Kabul's surrounding mountains blew against the flickering candles that case an orange glow on those gathered for the ceremony at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' headquarters". How awesome is that??
And then this. I watched "60 Minutes" tonight. CBS had a good portion of the show dedicated to Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and the episode that led to his being awarded the Medal of Honor. I was impressed with the Staff Sgt's "humbleness" in what he did in saving several soldiers lives on October 25, 2007. But what stood out for me was the mention of the loss of two of his fellow soldiers, Sgt. Joshua Brennan and Specialist Hugo Mendoza. "Their names, their faces will always be connected with the Medal of Honor I received", Giunta said. And now you know why people like David Letterman said, "I like this guy", when he interviewed the Staff Sgt. on his late-night TV show. Staff Sgt. Giunta is always looking to give others the credit that day. Something we could all do more of. It's easy to see why, "Our plans are not always God's plans".
21 Days or 3 weeks to go......Praying for your Safety Son. Praying for you daily and thinking of you and your fellow soldiers so much this Memorial Day!!