Last week I mentioned that the original members of second platoon would get together to honor Brian Chevalier, our friend that was killed in Iraq a year from last Friday. There had been enough mourning that day and the subsequent weeks and months, so we decided to celebrate the honor of being a part of the short life of our friend Chevy.
The night started like so many before it: with beers in hand and Guitar Hero on the TV. Dozer was out back grilling burgers as familar faces arrived by ones and twos. Conversation spilled into the kitchen as beer bongs were filled and caps came off bottles. The apartment renter, Ponch, lamented how there was a penis drawn on his refrigerator every time he has guests over. Bryan responded with a huge drawing of a purple, veiny member. We were assured it was not an accurate portrayal.
Before leaving for the karaoke bar, we gathered together for a moment of silence in the living room. Kyle, one of Chevy's closer friends, gave a heartfelt speech about why we were getting together. I thought about the events that day and how it had changed me. I remember Kyle on the roof, picking insurgents off with his powerful M-14. He came back and wrote 'Chevy' on the magazines for his rifle. I had a different way of remembering; every time I shot someone after that, it was Chevy's image that was seared into my conscious, not the crumpled frame or distorted face of an insurgent that just exhaled his last breath.
After our reflection, we piled into cars and trucks and headed to the bar. One guy bought a brand new Hummer after winning $15,000 in a scratch off game. I piled in with Dozer and Dodo as we listened to the best of hip hop all the way to the bar.
I hadn't realized the karaoke bar we were going to was a bar I had been once before,the last night in town for Steve. It look about ten minutes for everyone to make it in as pitchers of beer found themselves on our long table. The always wet and sticky song selection book was being passed around as potential singers looked around for a good partner to join them on stage.
Being so close to a military base will quickly tip off patrons of the bar that a table of loud, obnoxious 20-something drunks were in the service. It got out that we got together for our fallen friend, and a nice lady bought a shot for every man there. Others came by to shake our hands and tell their own Army or Iraq stories. Bryan and Josh were the first to get on stage and sang one of their favorite country tunes as the others laughed and recalled their favorite Chevy moments.
I was at the point of being drunk enough not to notice half the table get up to sing another song. I had been joking around with Dodo when I looked over to see everyone on stage crying. Instantly I snapped out of it and tried to listen over the conversations going on around me. I couldn't make out the words and turned to watch the monitor behind me. The text scrolling down made me realize the song. It was Arlington by Trace Atkins, the song that played at Chevy's memorial. I could finally hear the words. "And every time I hear twenty-one guns/I know they brought a hero home to us...."
Afterwards, there was a toast. To Chevy.
Drunken banter only escalated throughout the night. We freaked out when a guy was wearing a baseball cap with the words CHEVY written across it with a Chevrolet logo on the back. We couldn't believe it, of all nights. Dodo offered to pay twenty bucks for it, and the guy agreed that if he got to sing his song, he'd sell him the hat. It was a proposal that didn't make sense to even my inebriated friends, but he still didn't follow through with it.
Chevy's squad leader walked on stage to deliver a slurred yet heartfelt speech about him, and even though he didn't make a lot of sense, we gave him many cheers for the effort.
After quite a few hours of drinking, laughing and stories we've heard a thousand times before, it was time to go home. It wasn't March 14 anymore, but the beginning of March 15. A new day. Only time has diminished since March 14, 2007; memories of our friend and hero, Brian Chevalier, have been strengthened and refined with each passing day. His loss doesn't get any easier, just a little more bearable.
Josh and Bryan, Guitar Heroes
Moment of silence
Josh and Bryan trade in their plastic guitars for microphones
Singing "Roadhouse Blues" by The Doors. 3/5 of the people on stage knew the words, and it showed
Chevy's squad leader SSG Kellar when he was still sober
Dodo deep in thought as I smile about something or other
Singing "Arlington." Not a dry eye in the house
All pictures courtesy Cami McCormick.