"O say does that star spangled banner yet wave... O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?" (Frances Scott Key)
"Memorial Day." The day we remember those of our military who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There are many thousands of brave soldiers who have fallen through the years since time as we know it began. Most of them are only names to us. But today, on this day of remembrance, I want to tell you about one Marine who is more than just a name to our family. Although I never met him, I feel as though I knew him. His name was Aaron C. Austin and he was my son John's best friend in the Marine Corps. They started Boot Camp at Camp Pendleton, CA, together just six weeks after the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. When John came home for the first time after his three months of boot camp he told me about this guy in his company who "drove him crazy"! It was "Austin".....John called all his buddies by their last names. But before I knew it, Austin was his best bud. They were in the same company from then on. Machine gunners. The toughest of the tough.
The two of them boarded a ship early in January of 2003 sailing for Kuwait. By March they would be manning machine guns on the first tanks that would roll across the border into Iraq when the war started. By God's grace they both made it through their first tour in Iraq without a scratch. But things would be different when they flew back for their second tour in the spring of 2004. Unknown to them at the time they were destined to be torn apart forever in a hellhole called Fallujah. They both would be coming back to the States , but this time not together. Aaron's battered body would be flown home encased in a flag-draped coffin. Later that fall John would be medivaced home via the military hospital in Germany where he had to have emergency brain surgery due to shrapnel in his head from an IED. Oh what a merciful thing it is that we don't know what the future holds! It's sad enough when tragic things come upon us unawares but how awful it would be knowing ahead of time!
And so it is to Lance Corporal Aaron C. Austin that I dedicate today's post. Our family salutes you! We salute your mother De'on and your father Doug! And we salute one of your best friends.....and our son......,John, because we know he was willing to give his life, too, had it been required.
Aaron was awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions. I include the words from his citation here so that everyone who reads this will know why I picked Aaron to memorialize today.
"For heroic actions while serving as Machine Gun Team Leader, Second Machine Gun Squad, Weapons Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, in Fallujah, Iraq. On 26 April 2004, Lance Corporal Austin's platoon-sized security element patrolled into the city in support of Operation Vigilant Resolve and secured two buildings from which to observe enemy movement. At 1100, a numerically superior enemy force attacked Lance Corporal Austin's platoon from three different directions. In the first fifteen minutes of the attack, the enemy fired dozens of rocket propelled grenades, fired hundreds of machinegun rounds at the rapid rate, and then assaulted to within 20 meters of Lance Corporal Austin's position,all the while throwing grenades and spraying AK-47 fire. Many of Lance Corporal Austin's fellow Marines on the rooftop position were severely wounded by enemy grenades and machine gunfire. At great risk to himself, he unhesitatingly helped move them to safety. After ensuring his wounded platoon members received medical treatment, he rallied his platoon and rushed to the critical rooftop defensive position. Braving withering enemy machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire, Lance Corporal Austin reached the rooftop and prepared to throw a hand grenade. As he moved into a position from which to throw his grenade, enemy machine gun fire struck Lance Corporal Austin multiple times in the chest. Undaunted by his injuries and with heroic effort, Lance Corporal Austin threw his grenade, which exploded amidst enemy personnel and halted their furious attack. Lance Corporal Austin's valiant actions inspired his fellow Marines, allowing them to repel the enemy's attack from his platoon's northern position. Lance Corporal Austin's selfless actions, outstanding courage, and unlimited devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."
So take a look at the Silver Star Medal in the picture today. It's wasn't given to a nameless, faceless person. It was given (posthumously) to Lance Corporal Aaron Cole Austin. One of many brave souls who have given their all.
May we live so as to not make their sacrifice to be in vain!
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15: 13
May God bless and help us all.....