Lacrosse Field To Battlefield..And Back Again
THE WOODLANDS, TX -- If you're anything like me, you don't believe there's just one Veterans Day. You believe Veterans Day is 365 days a year. Every time I see a Veteran with his or her hat on, it's on! They get Rockstar treatment.
It's so important that we continue to recognize the sacrifices our brave soldiers make for us. Although at times we can disagree with our government in how they handle our relations with other countries, this should not reflect negatively on our military. For instance, when Iraqi Freedom was beginning I was bragging about Donald Rumsfield and how great of a job he was going to do. I was also in total support of going full force over there. Ask any Veteran and they will tell you if you are going to war, you MUST completely obliterate the enemy. With the way our government eventually handled the war in Iraq, our people were continually being deployed over there piecemeal and were very vulnerable due to no fault of their own.
During the war, I played on a lacrosse team that had a recent Iraqi Freedom Veteran on it - Randy Block. Back in the mid to late 90's, Randy didn't know if he'd be going into the military and he certainly couldn't predict he'd be in Iraq in less than five years. During a tournament we were playing in I'd ask Randy some questions about Iraq and he'd answer them politely but I could tell he wasn't comfortable with it. I told Randy that one of my friend's son was a sniper in Iraq and was assigned to observe checkpoints from a far off distance. I added that this person didn't like to talk about Iraq at all now, but of the few things he would share was one time early on in his tour he was walking down the street and he saw a hand just laying there. He had said it was like just a normal thing that goes on there.
Randy then volunteered his first eye opening experience. His outfit was driving down a street and they saw several charred, lifeless bodies dangling out of a vehicle. Randy was deep in thought and I could tell that single experience changed his outlook on life drastically. He looked at me and said, 'We talk at our own pace.'
I also knew Randy when he played lacrosse at Kingwood High School and can say he hasn't changed all that much on the outside. However, it is obvious when talking to him how much deeper he is now that he has seen a whole different world out there. A world he fought in so we can live the way we like to live in our sheltered world.
Another player on our team was a Captain at Fort Hood with whom was being deployed to Iraq shortly after our lacrosse season ended on a 12-14 month tour. John Ryan was in his early 20's and a West Point graduate. I remember telling him I hope to be playing lacrosse with him at some point in the future after he returns. With it being years later, I can tell you John did his tour and then another one as well. I never got to play lacrosse with John again but I do know he is safe.
I can't even describe for you how much of an honor it was to be on the same team with Randy and John. Perhaps in the future all of our paths will cross again together enabling me to honor these two brave men while they talk about their experiences. Perhaps they'll let me listen in. I'll let them decide when that will be. Until then, I'll just feel fortunate having met them.
Today and really every day of the year for that matter, don't forget to thank Randy, John and everyone in our military for continuing to protect us.