Memorial Day 2012

Today the United States honors those who died while serving in the military. The Washington Post’s “Faces of the Fallen” gallery has photos and other information on the “6,440 U.S. service members have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.” Several entries have been added over the past few days:

  • Sgt. Jabraun S. Knox, age 23, of Fort Wayne, Ind., on 5/18/12, “Died in Asadabad, Afghanistan,of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an indirect fire.”
  • Sgt. Michael J, Knapp, age 28, of Overland Park, Kan.,  on 5/18/12, “Died in Asadabad, Afghanistan,of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an indirect fire.”
  • Spec. Samuel T. Watts, age 20, of Wheaton, Ill, on 5/19/12, “Died May 19, in Bethesda, Md., of wounds sustained April 25, in Zharay, Afghanistan, when he was attacked with an enemy makeshift bomb.”
  • Capt. Jesse A. Ozbat, age 28, of Prince George, Va., on 5/20/12, “Died May 20, in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a makeshift bomb.”
  • 2nd Lt. Tobias C. Alexander, age 30, of Lawton, Okla., on 5/20/12, “Died May 20, in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a makeshift bomb.”
  • Spec. Arronn D. Fields, age 27, of Terre Haute, Ind., on 5/21/12, “Died in Qal-ah-ye Mirza Jal, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with rocket propelled grenades.”

As we remember and honor those who’ve lost their lives while serving this country, we should also think of those who grieve for them. A few days ago, Vice President Joe Biden addressed families and friends of service members killed in action. The Washington Post’s David A Farnenthold reports that Biden shared his own story of grief at losing his wife and 13-month-old daughter in a 1972 car crash, demonstrating that he had some understanding of what the audience members were experiencing:

“For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide,” Biden told a meeting of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors at a hotel in Crystal City. The group offers counseling to relatives and friends of military personnel who have died. It was holding its 18th annual military survivor seminar.

“Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts,” Biden continued, according to a transcript. “Because they’d been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they’d never get there again, that it was never going to get — never going to be that way ever again. That’s how an awful lot of you feel.”

… And, in a manner as unpolished as a living-room conversation, Biden told of climbing back out of grief.

“I have to tell you, I used to resent — I knew people meant well. They’d come up to me and say, ‘Joe, I know how you feel,’ ” Biden said. The audience laughed.

“Right?” They clapped.

“You knew they meant well. You knew they were genuine. But you knew they didn’t have any damn idea how you felt,” Biden said to laughter. “Right? Isn’t that true?”

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Blog includes posts from survivors Alice Daniel, whose son SSG Austin Daniel died in 2009, and Michelle Marcum, who lost her brother, MSG Michael T. Hiester. Resources for survivors are here.