It was an ordinary day. Wasn't more than two minutes ago that I felt compelled to hang our American Flag from the pole on the front porch of our house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. My story began to develop a few minutes before as I read the LNP Sunday newspaper. Janice was 88. Gladys was 88. Doris was 94. Margaret was 97. Rita was 102. Warren was 96. Erna was 93. Carol Ann was 79. Lester was 87. Dorothy was 95. Brandon S. was 19. Brandon H. was 25. The obituary page of the paper gave me the stories of the first 10 names I just listed, but it was the Perspective Section of the paper that gave me the final two names. For, you see, those final two names, died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. They died for you and me; years before they should have! And today, on Memorial Day, we celebrate their lives and all who died as well as served in the United States of America's Military. I never knew these two fine young gentlemen or their parents, but as I read their stories on the front page of the Perspective Section, I now get it!! Why would two patriotic young men give their lives for me? Because they lived by the same philosophy as American Revolutionary soldier Nathan Hale, who proclaimed: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." They wanted me, and all United States citizens, to have the freedom which at times requires some to die to preserve that right. And, why where these two men sacrificed for you and me? We will probably never know, and if we did, we more than likely could never have changed the outcome.
Brandon Styer gave his life for you and me!
Pfc. Brandon Styer served in the U.S. Army leaving for basic training a few months after graduating from high school. He was sent to Iraq the following year and then to Kandahar, Afghanistan after six more weeks. His assignment was to search roads for improvised explosive devices (IED's) and detonate them to ensure safe passage for the rest of his battalion. On October 15, 2009 his vehicle was hit with a detonated IED and all four servicemen aboard were killed. Nine days later he was escorted to Lancaster by the Lancaster City Bureau of Police Honor Guard and was buried in Conestoga Memorial Garden. Cpl. Brandon Hardy wanted to join the military as far back as 1996 when he watched TV footage of soldiers fighting in Desert Storm.
Brandon Hardy gave his life for you and me!
He too graduated from high school and left a month later for Air Force basic training. During his leave after boot camp he was sitting in Lancaster with his mother when he told her, while reading his training manual, "This is me, this is what I believe." The manual read: I am an American fighting in the armed forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense." He spent five years in the Air Force and was deployed to the Middle East three times during that period. His drive to be a soldier was so strong that he dropped out of the Air Force and joined the Marine Corps. Ten months later he died on April 28, 2006 while riding in a Humvee near Haditha, Iraq while serving his country. A tearful farewell followed by his fellow Marines. So, who are they two young men? Why were they singled out to die for you and me? Who were their parents who suffered through the ordeal of death? We will never know, but we can do something about it! On this Memorial Day, single out someone who was in the service and survived. Doesn't matter how old they may be or how many years they served. Look them in the eye and say to them, "Thank You for your service to our country." That's the least you could do on this Memorial Day. Remember, if it hadn't been for Brandon Styer and Brandon Hardy, we may not be here today to celebrate these fallen soldiers and those who managed to return. Some may not be with us anymore, but those that served and lived still deserve a special "Thank You" today. Just do it!! You'll probably feel so much better for it and they will know how much their service to their country really meant. Happy Memorial Day! Now, go hang up your flag as I just did if you haven't done so. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.