I remember them, all of them. Every day. I don’t live for them, I could never do this justice. I cannot hold myself to any expectations worthy of their sacrifice because I could never earn what they willingly gave. Nobody can. Nobody ever could.
We cannot live for them. But we can live.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13 ESV. These words, spoken millennia ago by Jesus of Nazareth are often echoed when we recall the memories of our fallen. When we recount their sacrifices. A powerful statement that projects what they gave, born of love in the purest. The part we routinely forget, though, is the preceding statement delivering the most powerful, actionable, and clear sentiment in the very same scripture.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” John 15:12.
I will not live for my fallen brothers, I will live with them. I will love others, as I have been loved. Give an empathetic ear to the hurting, walk with the lost, care for the needy, and act for the marginalized. As best I can in my limited capacity. I will not drown myself in alcohol, isolate myself from my family and my community or punish myself for not following them into eternity too soon. How could I remember them so? That is not the love they gave for me. Nor is it the love Jesus displayed in His often-quoted sentiment.
I could never forget them, they are my friends, they are my brothers.
Lou Olivera…I miss him so much. This one hurts deep. One winter Lou and I hiked Mount Falcon together weekly. We talked about Rangering, a little, but mostly we talked about life, our families, faith, hope, business, our community, and brotherhood. We had so much in common. Difficult childhoods that propelled us into the Army. We both had daughters of about the same age. We both worked to serve veterans in the nonprofit sector after successful business careers. We were both hard-charging NCOs in 2/75, though more than a decade apart. I went to war in Afghanistan, Lou went to war in Panama when I was 10.
Every month Lou and our group of Ranger families would have dinner, go hiking, see concerts, go for runs, and do life together. It just hasn’t been the same without him.
On December 23, 1989, he jumpmastered a bird of Rangers into Rio Hato Drop Zone. Upon hitting the drop zone, he was mortally wounded. The enemy left him for dead, but Lou survived. Lou came home, recovered, contributed to the Army through NATIC Labs, went to Grad School, built businesses, founded The Honor Bell, but more importantly, he created a beautiful family. After fighting his demons since that night in Panama, Lou finally lost the battle and took his life in 2018.
Sometimes only parts of us come back from war. Truth is, we lost Lou well before I ever got the chance to meet him. While I cannot imagine the pain he endured for nearly 30 years, I only attest that the parts that came home were worth a thousand great men. And that I will forever thank God that I was called “brother” by my hero.
Dave McDowell and his Ranger Buddy, Jake, welcomed me, always. I came home to A Co. 2/75 from Ranger School 155 lbs. soaking wet in 1999. Before my week of rest and recovery, I was required to zero my M240B and qualify, so I met the C Co. maggots in the parking lot at dusk, ready to jump on the trucks and head out. Even though I was an “A Co. guy”, Dave welcomed me with that big smile and I rolled out with new brothers. Years later, he would meet me at the C Co. CQ desk and welcome me, again. I was a new Madslasher, the platoon he grew up in. Open arms, warmly
embracing his brother.
He used to laugh, but he used to make us all laugh. When we were Pre-Ranger Cadre together out at Cole Range, he’d zip around on the quad, smiling. A mountain of a man with his little MICH helmet and Oakley’s, we likened him to a circus bear on a tricycle. When I committed to the Best Ranger Competition (BRC), he was there for us. Any range, any training, anything we needed to be successful, that’s the kind of man Dave was. He used to say, “I’m not doing Best Ranger, but you guys are and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help you be successful!” To date, it was the best showing of any 75th Ranger Regiment BRC team, placing 1st, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 9th out of 15 finishing teams. I remember Dave. Man, how we laughed together.
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