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The Hardest Part of Being a Brave Soldier

Posted on February 14 2012

When I signed my acceptance card to attend the United States Military Academy my senior year of high school, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I was going to attend one of the finest academic institutions in the country, commission as an officer in the United States Army, and most likely, lead some of America’s sons and daughters into combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Seven years later, I have done all three of those things. If you had asked me 7 years ago when I started this journey if that would be the “brave” part of my job, I would have answered with a resounding yes.However, after my own deployment, and the deployments of my friends and classmates, I will tell you that the brave part of the work I am in was not my personal deployment. There were stressful and interesting moments while I was in Iraq, but it’s my job to handle them and put on a strong face. I am trained and confident in the work I do, and I know that, come what may, I have prepared the most I possibly can. What no one prepared me for was to be brave when it came to losing loved ones and friends. I graduated with the class of 2009, and to date, we have lost 4 of our classmates in the War on Terror. 1LT Dimitri del Castillo and 1LT Daren Hidalgo were particularly good friends of mine, and my reaction was not particularly brave. I felt hurt, sadness and pain that I was not used to feeling. There were a lot of tears and questions on ‘why?’ WHY my friends? Then, in August 2011, I lost one of my best friends. CPT Dave Hortman was a helicopter pilot for a Special Forces unit, and the pain from his death, I can assure you, was acute. After long conversations with brave people I knew – friends and family alike – I decided that I had to be brave to keep the three of their memories alive. Their loss wasn’t for nothing and their presence in each of the lives they touched was a gift.Brave is not necessarily doing dangerous missions or going after the bad guys… brave is dealing with the loss in a productive manner – one that lets no one forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Soldiers aren’t the only ones who have to be brave… family and friends are brave for them. So thank you to all those supporting the Military and “Being Brave.”

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