Jason was born with a warrior spirit. He wasn't a violent man who took pleasure in harming others but felt an innate need to fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves. As a small boy, when he played with his friends he was always a Marine, fighting for justice. The youngest of eleven children, Jason had plenty of siblings to battle as he practiced for his inevitable career as a Marine.
There was no doubt he would become a Marine rather than a different branch of the military. His father and several brothers had been Marines, and he wanted to follow the tradition. In high school, he took the ASVAB, an aptitude test. The test itself points out strengths and weaknesses to define which specialty would be the best fit. Jason scored absurdly high, allowing him to have his pick of specialties. His oldest sister, Susannah, was shocked her youngest brother had done so well - Jason had always been an average student. An average student, yes, but Jason was never an average Marine.
Jason enlisted, understanding he was joining for life. From Bootcamp, he was an unbridled success. Years passed, Jason continued to excel. He was a hard-nosed jarhead, all Sempre Fi, OoRah spirit. Jason was also warm and funny; he was the guy who always stepped in when anyone needed him. It didn't matter how big or small; he was there and happy to help. Jason married, had a child, and continued to fight for the oppressed. He was happy; Jason was a truly happy and fulfilled man.
He was particularly close to his oldest sister Susannah, and his oldest brother Marcus, a Marine. Susannah was almost like a second mother, particularly after the loss of both parents. Susie prayed every morning and night for Jason to stay safe. She tucked her fear under the pride she felt when she thought of Jason. As years passed, she looked toward the days of retirement, knowing he wouldn't be in combat for the rest of his life. He was.
It was a cold February, not too far from Valentine's when Susannah's phone rang. It was her brother, not Jason; Marcus, the older brother who was close to retiring from his own illustrious career. The moment she heard his voice, she knew.
"Is he dead?" she asked without a break in her voice.
"Not yet," Marcus responded without a break in his voice.
Marcus, a highly decorated officer, was told of the incident first, allowing him to contact the family. He called Susannah, who would break the news to Jason's young wife. Susannah did her duty, standing unbowed when she shared the tragic news with her much younger sister-in-law.
It was an IED, an improvised explosive device that detonated when Jason and his team went on a rescue mission. Several Marines were dead, Jason survived the initial blast, and for several months beyond despite his vast and severe injuries. He was a strong, stubborn man who never conceded quickly. Jason completed his service just before his sister Susannah's birthday.
His body was escorted home by his brother Marcus. A big man who sat stoically, almost without expression, as he accompanied his brother on his final trip home despite the raw pain assaulting him at every turn. It was his duty as a Marine to escort this fallen Marine home. It was the love of a brother that helped him endure the unbearable pain.
Susannah and Jason's wife received his body, welcoming him home with his many siblings. He was laid to rest with love and honor; he had more than earned both.
Memorial Day is about all of the Jason's who lost their lives in service to our country. Jason would be the first person to tell everyone reading this to enjoy the holiday and to have a burger and beer on him, and you should. While you're enjoying the long weekend, spare just a moment or two for all of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.
Jason, a son, a brother, husband, father, uncle, friend, and badass Marine, had no regrets other than leaving his family too soon. When asked about being a Marine, Jason always had the same response.
"I don't know why this is what I was born to do, but I know I was born a Marine. They let me put on the uniform at eighteen, and when I die, whether I'm wearing the uniform or retired, I'll die a Marine. It's not what I am; it's who I am."
He was called Jason, and he was a Marine.
Rest peacefully, brother.