A tribute to Carlos.
Yesterday was a special but solemn day.
Certainly not just because it was Memorial Day.
It started as a beautiful partly cloudy summer morning.
I drove over to the National Memorial cemetery located by Mountain Creek Lake.
I spent the morning walking around the quiet and well manicured cemetery grounds.
Already there were several families gathered around grave sites.
Moving quietly from one gravesite to another, I made my way through the various markers.
Stopping and reading the dates and silently praying and reverantly thanking
all these servicemen and women for their ultimate sacrifice.
I took in the moment, and the many beautiful wreaths and flags that covered
the beautiful national cemetery.
I also got to speak with a young mother of two children and her parents who were
there visiting their beloved's grave site.
I had just moved away from a grave marker when an older Hispanic woman
approached me and asked me in Spanish who I was visiting.
I told her I was very fortunate because I didn't have anyone buried there.
I told her that I had served in the Army and that each year,
I had made it a point that no matter where I was on Memorial Day,
that I would make it a point to go pay my respects to our heroes.
After a few minutes we began to talk about the hero that they had come to visit.
The young lady in the group spoke up, she said that it was her husband Carlos,
who they had come to pay their respects to.
She said softly that they had only been married just eighteen months,
and were eager to begin their new family.
Her Mother in law interjected, "Carlos was just 24 years of age but he had always
wanted to go off and join the Army."
She added that Carlos had tried to enlist as a Junior in high school.
She added, "He was just a baby at 17 years old, so I refused to sign the papers for the
recruiter that kept coming to our house."
"He was very stubborn." she said smiling.. "and so when he turned 18 years old
he went ahead and joined the US Army.
It was the following year, right after his graduation."
"He was a very proud Infantry soldier!" his Father interjected.
"I really miss mijo."
He said that Carlos went on to serve in the US Army for six years,
having spent two, one year tours in Iraq, before being redeployed from his base
in Colorado to Afghanistan the last time.
His wife and two kids had just moved to Ft. Carson, Colorado
when he got orders to go to Afghanistan.
More than anything Carlos they all told me, wanted to be able to take his two children,
a seven year old little girl from a previous marriage and his little boy to visit
his 90 year old grandmother.
She lived in El Salvador and their kids had never met her.
They said that he was bigger than life, very funny and a great Dad.
He loved his wife, his Mom and Dad and his younger brother and sister.
He was their rock.
Carlos never made it back.
He was killed three months after arriving in Afghanistan.
They told me that he had died in fierce attack by the Taliban on his unit back
on October 14th, 2010.
His wife Susanna said that Carlos' best friend and another soldier in his platoon
had also been killed on that day.
His Mother Imelda remember the very day that her daughter called her at work,
and told her to come home right away.
There was a military officer at her home, and he wanted to speak to her in person.
She remembers speeding home and thinking that they must have the wrong address,
that there must have been a mistake, maybe they had the wrong soldier.
But in her heart, her Mother's instincts somehow knew better.
Carlos had not called or e-mailed them like he always did.
In fact it had been several days since anyone had heard from him.
Deep down she had prayed every waking moment, lighting candles,
and like the rest of the family, had begun to get really worried.
"It has been a very painful ten months," Imelda said wiping tears from her eyes.
She had faithfully come to the cemetery every weekend.
"I just want to be as close as possible to him."
His wife added, "We all really miss Carlos so much."
"Our Faith is the only thing that is pulling us through this."
Susanna then added, "We must have been confused as to which home,
he was going to be coming home to."
We spoke some more and than said our goodbyes, they invited me to their home
for a bowl of homemade albondiga soup someday (my favorite soup).
I drove home thankful; for but the grace of God, my family had been spared.
I have two nephews and a niece who are proudly serving in the military.
I came home and did a little bit of research and found that Carlos was actually
from Carrollton, Texas.
He was also a very dedicated and highly decorated soldier.
Among his awards, the article stated that he received a bronze star,
and a purple heart and had been promoted posthumously to the rank
of Staff Sargeant.
I was grateful that I was able to meet Susanna and Imelda, Carlos' Father
and his two beautiful kids.
I also somehow wished that I had known Carlos.
I bet he would have been fun to be around.
Our young men and women need our support, they are the heroes.
The need better pay, improved medical coverage, better educational opportunities
upon their return.. as well as some type of tax breaks for companies that hire them.
They are after all our true heroes.
Make it a great dia!