(NOTE: This story was originally written for Hooters Magazine, back when I was still in their employ. I have dusted it off and redacted minor portions of it for this publication.)
Today one would be hard pressed to find someone whose life has not been touched by our country’s efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of the world. This is the story of how my life has been touched. It is a story of dedication, belief, desire, and sacrifice. I am sure many of our readers have similar stories that will relate to their lives and experiences, and as such please feel free to change the names as appropriate.
My closest friend, Major Wade Deliberto and I met about nine years ago at the Cumberland Hooters here in Atlanta. It took about a year of macho posturing for us to get through our two opposing Alpha male egos before we became fast friends and eventually best friends – brothers.
A United States Marine and United States Naval Academy graduate, Wade exemplifies the American spirit. Out of the Marine Corps for four years with his Inactive Ready Reserve Status about to expire (meaning he could not be recalled, but would have to volunteer for future service), Wade again felt the call of duty to his country. It was the call to those who have the will to serve. Although set in a comfortable career as a bank manager, Wade spent months scouring DOD postings and making numerous phone calls trying to find a billet to fit his MOS (Military Occupational Specialities). As persistent and determined as I know Wade to be, I am sure the particular Marine Staff Sergeant had grown annoyed at the constant barrage of emails and phone calls inquiring into Wade’s position on the list of potential candidates until finally the Ssgt responded “SIR, you are the list!”
Thus began a second run at sacrifice and dedication to one’s country. Wade signed up for a six month reserve tour in Afghanistan under the Combined Forces Command (CFC-A). Immediately, like a mother, father, spouse or other family member, I began to think about the perils my “brother” would face in the line of duty. I began to think about sitting at Cumberland Hooters looking at across the table at another empty stool and another framed portrait of a memorial marquee. I already have enough of those.
Reservations notwithstanding, we talked, we discussed, we debated, and ultimately we parted. Wade, my brother, was heading into war. The feelings I had were the same as I sense many families have at the finality of this news – Pride, Fear, Desperation, Hope.
Wade’s commitment to the Marine Corps ideology of “God, Country, Corps” strikes a deep chord in me for a couple of reasons. First I have not served our country through military service. One of the biggest regrets of my life – we will not get into the others – is having not served as the other men in my family have. Second, I have lost very few people in my life. I feel extremely fortunate in that respect. But to imagine a family whose loved one(s) are in harm’s way 24/7 adds a different dimension to care, love, and missing as this absence becomes final.
Throughout Wade’s tour, we talked as often as possible and emailed much more frequently. He kept me apprised of life in the ‘sandbox’ and I tried to keep him up to date on the goings on of life back here – the who’s dating who, how’s so-and-so is doing, the weather and other such other trivial matters. I think we both relished the calls and the emails albeit for different reasons. For me it was an opportunity to know my brother was doing well and hear the resolve in his voice. For him, I think it was more of simply gaining a little normalcy and sense of home in a place that is far from either.
Wade has since returned from Afghanistan and is currently in his second [volunteer] tour. Seeing him and hearing the stories first hand and in person has helped to better shape my perspective. The camaraderie that our military personnel share with one another is something that us non-servers can never truly understand but must appreciate, if not envy. And while that bond is closest while under fire and in harm’s way it cannot replace the feelings, touches, and souvenirs of home.
[the remainder of this story has been REDACTED]
Chris Durant –
March 29, 2007
As a final update, Wade has now served two tours between Afghanistan and Iraq and stints at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and at the Pentagon. He is back stateside now (at an undisclosed location), safe, for the moment and content to wake every morning and don the Marine Corps BDUs.
This weekend, if you see a service man or woman or a veteran, please be sure to thank them for their service as we celebrate our nation’s independence and remember it is only because of people like them that we are able to live as we do in the “Land of the Free and (certainly in) the Home of the Brave.”