Go back in time to February 24, 2009. It was a Tuesday. A pretty normal day for you and I, to start with, anyway.
For Four Brave Men, American Soldiers, it was their last day defending the USA. An IED hidden in the soil exploded and shattered the lives of four families. Two of the men left behind wives and children. All four left countless family members and friends that would feel the pain of their loss as acutely on 2/24/2010 as we did on 2/24/2009.
Here is what I know about these Four Brave Men.
Scott Bradley Stream was a 39-year old father of Megan and Laura, and husband to Rasa. His parents Gayle and Sherm Stream raised a boy into a man who was incredibly proud to be an American. Those who know him say that Scott loved to write. Incredibly enough, on 12/31/2008, Scott wrote a letter to a friend. How poignant it was initially, and so much more so after his death, less than two months after writing it:
Scott Stream's Letter - Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A strange thing...
When I think about what surrounds me, the institutional corruption, the random violence, the fear and desperation, I feel the reasons why I am here more and more sharply. As we grow in our soldiers skills, surviving by finding the hidden dangers, seeing the secret motives and the shifting politics...we grow a set of skills that is unique and powerful in this situation.
We also see what you cannot see in the States, you are surrounded by the love of Christ and faith in freedom and humanity, like a fish you think water is 'a puff of air' because it is always there, you do not notice it...we who are out of the water look back and see the world we love surrounded by enemies, poison and envy that wants to fall on you like a storm of ruin.
We who joined with vague notions of protecting our country see how desperate the peril, how hungry the enemy and how frail the security we have is. So the more I love you all the more I feel I must keep fighting for you. The more I love and long for home the more right I feel here on the front line standing between you and the seething madness that wants to suck the life and love out of our land.
Does that mean I cannot go home? I hope not, because I want this just to be the postponement of the joy of life, not the sacrifice of mine. If it costs me my life to protect our land and people then that is a small thing, I just hope that fate lets me return to the promise land and remind people just how great our land is.
War is a young mans game, and I am getting and old mans head...it is a strange thing. I just hope that I am not changes so that I cannot take joy in the land inside the wire when I make it home. I want to be with you all again and let my gun sit in the rack and float on my back in a tube down a lazy river...
Well, Scott...you have returned to the promised land, just a different one that you referenced when you wrote that letter. And trust me, because of men like you people KNOW just how great our land is.
Brian (Bubba) Bunting
Brian (Bubba) Bunting was a 29-year old with a smile as bright as the midday sun. Don't let the nickname Bubba fool ya...this Bubba was no slacker. After Bullis High School, Bubba had to choose...US Military Academy at West Point or the US Naval Academy in Annapolis! He ended up choosing West Point. At West Point he earned a degree in civil engineering. People that know Bubba are known to say that FAMILY was the most important aspect of his life.
As if Bubba's story isn't amazing enough, consider his young family. Bubba and his incredible wife Nicki were enjoying their beautiful son Connor. Bubba and Nicki were reunited in February of 2009 for Bubba's R&R leave. A few days after Bubba returned to the front lines from his leave, Nicki was notified of his death. A few days after that, Nicki found out that she was pregnant. In late October, Nicki and Connor welcomed baby Cooper to the family.
Never before have I encountered a more beautiful, strong, amazing woman. She's trudging through...she's making it, one step at a time. And one day, I KNOW that Nicki is going to explain to Connor and Cooper how awesome their Daddy was, and I'd bet with genes from Nicki and Bubba, those boys are gonna be pretty awesome too.
Dan Thompson was the youngest of the Four Brave Men, at 24 years old. Dan was the only child of Lisa and Bob Thompson. Dan joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard during his junior year in high school. He received a degree in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement in 2006. His plan was to get into police work after leaving the military in late 2009.
Like the others, Dan had a smile that could brighten a room. He loved cars, playing hockey and riding his motorcycle. Although he was only 24 he had accomplished a lot and had big plans for his future.
And finally, Schuyler Patch. Many of you have gotten to know him through my blog posts. Schuyler was my nephew. Only 12 years my junior, Schuyler was like a little brother to me. He and his big sis Amber spent lots of time with us as children and I love them both like a sibling. Schuyler was a goof. He was a charmer. He was always ready for a good time and some good laughs. He had a great laugh, and a big hug. He was family oriented...family meant a great deal to him. Our family never backs away from a hello or goodbye hug, and always says "I love you". Schuyler and I "talked" through an instant messenger program while he was in Afghanistan. Oh, how I loved those talks! He was persuasive...he was always trying to talk you into something. I could practically hear his laugh from heaven the day I got my memorial tattoo for him. Simply, he was a great man and he had so much more to do, but it was not to be. Our entire family will miss him forever.
I hope there's a spot in heaven where Schuyler and Mom are having a great time. I hope they get together with Bubba, Scott, and Dan tomorrow and gaze down at their family and friends and smile as we try to smile through the tears and get through the day. I hope they can find a way to send us each a sign that they are OK now and that they're at peace...waiting until we meet again. I hope they can send down some feelings of comfort to the brave men who served with them. Those men will feel pain tomorrow like none of us can understand. They were there...they saw their friends...their brothers...die.
I hope that it gets a little easier each day, and I hope the four families can meet some day. I hope that we can sit down, and tell each other a bit more about our one of those Four Brave Men. I hope that people really NEVER FORGET and remember that every day there are thousands...tens of thousands...American Soldiers that are fighting and protecting our freedom. And remember that when you read a story in your newspaper about an American "casualty" in the Middle East, there is NOTHING casual about it. That soldier is someones Scott, Bubba, Dan, or Schuyler. They too, have a story. I hope that people respect Veterans...all of them.
I will never forget these Four Brave Men, and every time I see an American Flag at half staff I send out some thoughts for the person that flag is honoring. God Bless Dan Thompson, Bubba Bunting, Scott Stream, and Schuyler Patch...may you rest in eternal peace and know that above all, you are LOVED.