Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Ides of March

Since most of Battle Company, second platoon disbanded, we've moved on. Careers have been launched, schools attended and families started. We're not the kids that filled out Army uniforms so long ago. As close as we were then, both geographic distance and the rigors of post-military life have left us isolated. There was a time that you could reach in any direction and grab the shoulder of a brother. These days, the best we can muster is a phone call or an email, with makeshift reunions of a few men happening quick and infrequently.

We went camping and I let him borrow a tent not knowing it had a hole in it. He walked out of the tent the next morning soaked from the knees down. - Dozer

March is for moving forward. But for second platoon, the month is swallowed by memories of a particular man in a particular place on a particular day: March 14, 2007. Brian Chevalier, a lean and baby-faced Georgia boy, was the driver for first squad. He faced the enemy before the rest of his squad every time they mounted up. I never heard him complain about a thankless job like ferrying infantryman into battle.

Thompson and me were on CQ and fucking Chevy came by covered in mud and looking like he just got tag teamed by a bunch of forest animals. He celebrated his 21st birthday at the casino, tried to walk to post and passed out in a ditch. - Dodo

There was no whimper, no cries for mother or last words when Chevy died. The explosion that blew him out of the Stryker made him, for a brief moment, a creature of flight. He didn't suffer. The next few hours were spent fighting out of a kill zone expertly crafted by gunmen lying in wait. In our unit's history, The Ides of March became a bloody smear on the calendar.

On the first anniversary of Chevy's death, many of the guys around Ft. Lewis were able to get together, along with a CBS reporter to cover the story. We sang and drank and traded memories about Chevy. Three years later, it's not so easy. Many of us relied on Facebook to tell the same old stories or share new ones.

I remember that fool planning his redneck wedding. Also remember him telling Hernandez that he wouldn't be his battle buddy to the chow hall in Mosul. After a while he would hide out in his room just to avoid him. - Dodo

I've never worked or went to school on March 14. Last year I spent the day with Dodo and another friend in New York, but last week I found myself alone. I decided to spend the day where another group of young men struggled and died: Antietam. The park system contains two monuments to the 20th Infantry NY Regulars, which were the predecessors of our unit, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment. The engagement is remembered with a striped battle streamer on the regimental colors. Us, though, we remember Chevy with late night phone calls and laughter through tears.

We have moved on since then, but March carries a weight that loads us down. Spring is just around the corner, but not for our best.

In that kid I saw the best in all of you. No matter how bad it got, he and you all persevered. He would remind me that you all were kids and to lighten up. Leave fucking with the Army of Dude for another day. It was an honor to serve with each and everyone of you. As long as we don't forget him, he will live longer than all of us.
- Richard Kellar, Chevy's squad leader