It took years for me to consider what Memorial Day really meant. When you grow up celebrating a break from school and work with a three day weekend and a camping trip you tend to focus on your weekend plans as opposed to why they are possible to begin with.
In high school and college I kind of got it, we’re supposed to take a day to remember and reflect on the too many Americans who have sacrificed their lives for this country. “CHEERS to the fallen troops and thank you for our holiday…who wants cheese on their burgers??”
If you think about it we should all be required to work straight through the night as opposed to getting time off. Or maybe spend a day shadowing a soldier in the Middle East. I’m not sure what it would take for true understanding and appreciation to occur.
Much of my Memorial Day weekends now are spent thinking about what a stupid stupid girl I was for never taking a moment to consider families like Ben’s who carry much of the weight of our wars on their shoulders as they work to heal their broken families.
The following message is written on Ben’s gravestone and after seeing it posted on his sister’s Facebook page I thought is was a perfect testimony to the kind of hero we’re missing this Memorial Day…and everyday…in case you needed to be reminded:
“Ben was the bravest, most decent and selfless man I’ve ever known. He led the platoon on more raids and captured more high profile criminals, explosives and weapons than most battalions have. We marveled at his expertise and calm professional approach. I knew we had someone very special when I first met Ben.”
” He spent 12 years in the Special Forces prior to coming to the Gunner Battalion. He was the Honor Graduate of his Advanced Non-Commissioned Officers Course, Honor Graduate of his Officers Candidate School class, and Honor Graduate of his Chemical Officers Basic Course. He earned the Gold Medal in the Germany Efficiency Badge, graduated airborne and HALO school, and earned jump wings from both Thailand and Germany. Ben crossed over to the Delta side when he served on the WMD breach team.”
“He never spoke of his past, never bragged, and possessed just an air of being the greatest guy you would ever want to know.”
“He gravitated to the toughest missions that there were. But he did it with a calm, gentleman’s approach. He took the Survey platoon and made them one of the U.S. Army’s premier raiders. He was just so good at what he did, that you felt safe around him. Ben single-handedly made so much of a difference in Baghdad in the past 6 months, that in time, the world, not just Iraq, will owe him its gratitude. He knew how important this mission is and gave nothing less than 100%.
We’ll always remember him as the quiet, selfless, brave, expert, professional. The greatest guy around. The guy you want living next door to you and your family. This Battalion will continue its mission even more vigilantly than before because of Ben’s memory and spirit will always be with us. Ben, you are our Nation’s finest and you’ve inspired us all to take it to the next level. Rest In Peace.”
LTC William S. Rabena