On November 19th, 2004, the day before my 30th birthday, I got a call. A college buddy was calling to tell me my best friend Dimi’s sister was trying to reach me. Dimi was in Iraq, Fallujah to be exact. A few days earlier I got a call from him and he told me he had been hit by shrapnel and was hurt. He didn’t want his mother to know because she would worry.
I was happy. They had a reporter from the New York Times embedded with their unit and every day they were losing soldiers. They were the tip of spear as the Marines invaded Fallujah. They were in the thick of it.
I figured his family found out he was hurt and they were calling me to see what I knew. I was glad to tell them he was injured and off the battlefield but then he said something I still haven’t quite processed. “Dimi was killed”
I thought our generation had missed war. The Gulf War was fought while we were in high school and there weren’t any conflicts we were involved in as we went off to school. We graduated college, started careers and a few of us were starting families. 9-11 changed that. We lost four fraternity brothers, one in each tower, one firefighter and one in the Pentagon. Dimi joined the Marines.
I feel him with me every day. I feel him with me when I succeed, I feel him with me when I fail. I think about him when I look at my kids and I know how much they would have loved him. I wonder if he’d be proud of what I’m doing, of who I’ve become.
I wish Memorial Day was more solemn. It feels like it’s just another long weekend, an excuse to have a party. It’s the start of summer, I get it, but it’s also a day to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy the freedoms we so often take for granted. Take a minute today and think about why you have the day off.