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Remember this veteran - Justin

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Published on: Monday, November 19, 2012

By Brian J. Karem

Okay, so I’m running late because my alarm clock decided to sleep in, and my son – who’s going to school and riding into work every morning with me – is dragging his sorry behind out of bed late too.

I hop into the car and bingo; my right rear tire is flat.

“I didn’t do it,” was my son’s response as I announce the situation.

As if I cared.

But the big Expedition, being what it is, makes it tough changing a tire.

“Go get me a block of firewood to put under the opposite tire,” I tell my son.

He brings me a round piece of wood that promptly rolls away.

I stare at him in amazement.

“What?” He says back.

Naturally it takes a good half an hour to find all of the tools to change the tire because the car hasn’t been cleaned out in three or four weeks.

“I cleaned it out,” my son says emphatically.

I stare at him in amazement.

Afterward I have to change my attire, and as I walk upstairs into my room I’m greeted with a wonderful odor of canine excrement. I look down and the Jack Russell Terror has left a deposit – with no possibility of a return – right in my shorts.

I stared at the dog in amazement. After I finished mopping up the mess – with a new short-haired Jack Russell Terrier mop – I change, get downstairs and finally am ready to go to work.

I feel exhausted and the day hasn’t even begun.

My son and I get back into the car, and by this time he’s giving me wide berth because he doesn’t want to end up like the Jack Russell Terrier. I look at him and I have no idea what to say when I catch a glimpse of a slick sheet of paper on the floor near his feet.

I’m about to give him untold grief for his vacant promise of cleaning out the car – which he drives most of the time – when I happen to read the paper as I pick it up.

It was the program from a funeral. The funeral was for Justin Davis from several years ago.

Naturally, I didn’t give my son grief at that point. I patted him on the back of the head and told him I loved him.

My son, who hadn’t seen the program I picked up, now thinks his dad is totally insane.

He may be right.

But, as I sat there looking at my son, I was lost in the memory of that funeral.

It was a large funeral, for a 19-year-old boy whose life was just beginning.

I saw people with whom I’ve coached football; I saw former players, and many of my son’s friends, neighbors and people I’ve been acquainted with for more than 10 years.

All of them came to show their respects for a very remarkable young man.

One of the many members of the clergy who spoke about him called Justin a hero.

His life snuffed out in Afghanistan by a case that is being investigated as a friendly-fire episode, he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

“That’s my baby!” His mother screamed out in anguish as the pallbearers put the casket containing the boy’s body in the Hearse at the end of the services in Gaithersburg.

When it was said and done, I felt personally responsible for Justin’s death.

I didn’t raise my voice loud enough to be heard. I didn’t fight against the stupidity of this continuing war hard enough. I didn’t focus on it. Didn’t donate my energy to it.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” John Lennon said.

So, while I planned to fight, I got up every morning, raised my kids, griped about the kids and the dog, cleaned up the messes and was oblivious to what went on around me.

Everyone owes Justin and everyone else who has lost their life in this war a debt of gratitude. There but for the grace of God go us all.

But we also owe every living soldier another debt -a debt we can only repay by bringing them home. We should honor them for their sacrifices, but we shouldn’t sacrifice them or our nation’s honor any more.

When it’s all said and done, I’ll put up with endless days of flat tires and dog excrement against even one more funeral for a young man who’s left us before his time.

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