Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Friend the Warrior

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died July 27, 2007, near Kamu, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when their unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations.They were assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy.

Killed were: Major Thomas G. Bostick Jr., 37, of Texas Staff Sergeant William R. Fritsche, 23, of Indiana.

This was the news I received two years ago. For many, a report like this makes you think, maybe whisper a prayer of thanks for the guys that serve our country. Maybe you might feel sad that they died so far from home. Who knows, maybe you might just shrug and go on with your day and forget their name in the next ten seconds. I know on occassion I have been guilty of each of these reactions. However, this time it was different.

Tommy was a friend of mine.

He came to my high school late in the junior high years and as high school came into being we became friends. We had similar interests...which is to say we loved sports. We played dunkball on the elementary goals, which were eight feet tall. His main passion was basketball. He came from New Mexico..cocky...but very personable. He reminded me of the Fonz when the Fonz was a freshman. He tried football his senior year...and started at wide receiver. After four years, we hit the usual crossroads all eighteen year olds hit. I chose education because I really didn't know what to do.

He chose the military.

As I sifted through life as a college student, he was going through basic training. As, I bitched about algebra and skipped classes because of late parties, he was parachuting into hostile areas of Greneda and Panama. As, I wondered, as Desert Storm became a reality, if I would be drafted, Tommy was involved spearheading many attacks in Iraq.

Tommy was an army ranger. He was an elite member of our armed forces. I was a man just trying to be in the work force. While I sweated out interview after interview, he was steadily moving up the ranks in the military and was a captain before the age of 35.

Now, I would be lying if I said I saw him that much over the nineteen years from graduation to that fateful night in July two years ago. But, in actuality, he was probably the closest friend from high school I had left. We would talk whenever he was in the hill country and sometimes even get together for a little conversation. The army had changed him from the kid he was, to the man he became. The ego was gone and replaced with a quiet cofidence that radiated from him. He was a husband...a dad...a brother....a soldier.

In the weeks following his death, I began to hear about the warrior, Thomas G. Bostick. How he would make jokes in the face of fire to keep his men calm. How the Iraqi people respected him because of his honesty and 'telling them the way it is' type of diplomacy. How one of his best friends in the service was a general in charge of European bases. How, during the last night of his life, he and Staff Sargeant Fritsche stayed behind in Kamu, Afghanistan facing overwhelming odds to protect the entire unit.

Possibly knowing full well they were going to forfeit their lives for the good of their men, Tommy and SSG Fritsche were the only two American casualties of the fight.

In the two years following his death, I find myself thinking more of Tommy than maybe I did when he was alive. I think of him the usual holidays...but I also think of him during Christmas...graduation...when I watch a middle school basketball game. In some of the kids I teach I see him more often.

I wish I could thank him again for fighting over there to keep the bad guys away from here.

Maybe some day I will.

1 comment:

Tim said...

You just did.

What a GREAT tribute to your Hero friend. This was beautifully written.

Love and Prayers,