Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Memorial Day Tribute

"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.....



Stushie said...

Memorial Day Sonnet

If Liberty means anything to me,
I will remember what my freedom cost,
By those who gave their all to keep me free,
Whose lives were sacrificed, but never lost.
I will remind myself of what they did,
And keep them dearly cherished in my heart;
Their honor never from me shall be hid
And I will know they always did their part
To save our nation and its people here,
To pledge their lives in defense of our ways,
To show that freedom always outlives fear,
And sacrifice is hallowed all our days.
If Liberty means anything to me,
I will remember those who kept me free.

© John Stuart 2008
Pastor at Erin Presbyterian Church,
Knoxville, Tennessee

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Thank you, thank you for sharing this poignant tribute to Aaron. I feel so removed from so much of this, and hearing is story has made me mindful of all the men and women who are sacrificing so much so that me and my family can walk in freedom.

May God bless and preserve Aaron's story for generations to come. May his love reach forth to sustain a family's grief. May his life and his death be a reminder to this world that freedom comes with a price. It comes with a life laid down on our behalf.

Now that will preach, my friend.

Powerful post.

peace, as always.


Deborah said...

What a wonderful memorial for a brave young man. As the previous comment said...we can feel so far removed from what is happening overseas, if we don't have someone close to us directly involved. We have a young man from our church serving in Aphganistan, and we pray for him regularly...but sadly our lives go on as they fight for theirs and for our freedom.

Jana said...

Happy Memorial Day! Give John a big hug and "Thank-You" for us!

Leah said...

May God bless and protect every man and woman who defend this great country!! Thanks for a beautiful post.


Anonymous said...

This is precious! I feel I was a part of this as I remember so well that time and the tears and prayers that were given for these brave men! I'm honored to have had a part! God bless you sis for sharing this and reminding us of what sacrafice is all about.
Love you,

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful. Thanks for your tribute to a fallen Marine.

Yes, this day brings sadness and memory of our sons' friends, and experiences in giving their all.
After having a son in the miliitary, it gives you a whole new perspective on the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.....

I shed a tear this morning and say a prayer For Aaron Austin and his family. I know they must be remembering him today with pride and grief.

Happy Memorial Day with Love, Debbie

lori said...

Thank you for posting that.

And thank you for your always sweet comments on my page.

Joyful said...

Marilyn, this is powerful. What a beautiful tribute. It is a song for heroes...lest me forget.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. May we not negate the work already done on the cross.
Humbly His,

De'on Miller said...


I am home now from Amarillo and from Aaron’s grave. It is a beautiful place his body rests. The hundreds of flags that flew yesterday proved how much so many have given. While most veterans in this Memorial Park Cemetery lived full lives, we know that their sacrifice and their stories may remain buried forever. But as mothers of Marines we know that their stories live with these precious troops for all their lives, and I can’t thank you enough for keeping Aaron’s alive even four years later.

John was so special to Aaron and I know that he is even more precious to him now. Your son, and many like our sons, would gladly give their lives for not only their beliefs, but for those who surrounded them—those brothers they loved.

I remember praying for John then, when Aaron was KIA, and then after John was hit by the IED, and I pray for all those men more fervently today. These young, young men are powerful, not only in their battlefield experiences then, but those they face when they come home and try to live on after victory, after defeat, after so much that they protect us from even now.

The ceremony yesterday was so powerful. The speaker talked about the crushing of the wheat, the death that brings life. He told how Jesus was our example even unto death. Something we will all face. I saw WWII vets who could hardly stand up, Korean War Vets, (and just 2 from Vietnam. The speaker gave them what he called “a long overdue thank you.”) The memorial moved me to tears and they flowed and flowed. We are so blessed because of so many.

I’ve read this post of yours 3 times now and it just becomes more and more powerful. Thank you for being a part of keeping their stories alive.

And thank you, Marilyn, for raising a Marine. I wish all their stories could be shared because as you and your readers have said, we live in so much freedom; it is just too easy to forget.

May God continue to lead us in His paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. And may He bless those who have served, continue to serve and those who will serve in the future. May He strengthen their friends and family for each journey ahead. He is so merciful to hide the future from us. And so very merciful to give us hope down the roads we each must travel.

Thank you for your prayers and the blessing of your friendship!
De’on Miller
Proud Gold Star Mom