Thursday, February 28, 2008
Guitars for Grunts
As you all know, when we first arrived in Ramadi in January 2007, things were pretty hot--kinetically speaking. It was immediately clear to us why others had called Ramadi the most dangerous city in the world. We lost our first Soldier--PV2 Matthew Zeimer--while we were still in our right-seat-ride (first week of being shown the area by the outgoing unit), and continued to lose Soldiers somewhat regularly thereafter. Those days were particularly heavy for us. It is with humble gratitude (and I must confess, a little effort to suppress the superstition one experiences with mentioning such things while still in combat) that I acknowledge we've not lost a Soldier since 23 May 2007--the night SSG Steve Butcher and SPC Daniel Cagle were killed in action.
We often speak of our Soldiers killed in action. We regularly pray for their families. The grief counseling I provide is something that continues long after the tragic event of death. Since that time we have been contacted by these Soldiers' family and friends with reassurance that our safety and mission remain in their prayers. A few months ago, I was contacted by Paul Hickman, a former Marine who's organized a charitable organization: Guitars for Grunts. (see http://www.guitarsforgrunts.com/ ) His network of friends provides guitars to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Paul coordinated with Frank De Gennaro to send us a guitar in memory of SPC Daniel Gagle--a Fender Stratacoustic (electric). LTC Silverman, CSM Sumner and I recently visited our Alpha Company Soldiers down at Joint Security Site Sedgwick, and presented the guitar to SPC Cagle's fellow Soldiers. Pictured here is me presenting the guitar to SFC Kelly, Daniel and Steve's platoon sergeant. SPC Dunkle took a few minutes to tune the guitar, and then played for the Soldiers assembled in the mess hall an arrangement of songs including Johnny Cash's well-loved ballad, "A Boy Named Sue". It was a memorable event. It struck me as poignant that of the various ways we express our grief and remember the fallen, expressions of creativity and art are perhaps the most therapeutic. I wish to thank the folks at Guitars for Grunts and every other organization, group, or individual who has supported us during our deployment. Your gifts help keep us from becoming calloused.