i’m not afraid

For though from out our bourn of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
-Lord Alfred Tennyson
Lt. Col. Mark “Kojak” Reents, NATO Air Training Command Afghanistan adviser delivers the eulogy for the fallen nine.

At approximately 1025 hours on 27 April 2011 nine U.S. troops were killed by a “veteran Afghan military pilot” in Kabul.

It’s one of those things you dread hearing about when you have a loved one downrange. “The ‘Stan” is how they often refer to it. Every day you check the news feeds scanning, re-scanning and waiting for your daily “I’m good” email.

Then it comes.

“Just wanted to let you know that there was an incident on my base here in Afghanistan … several people were injured. I’m ok. I’ll be in touch. Love you!”

You wait.

Reports start to come in.
Nine Americans Methodically Killed
Shootout at Kabul
Afghan pilot kills 9 U.S. trainers

You tell yourself that you’re not afraid. Everything is A-OK. Don’t worry. I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid. But you are scared shitless. You feel sick. You feel guilty. Helpless. What do I do? What do I say? Who do I tell?

You do nothing. You say nothing. And you tell no one.

At some point it got to me. I stayed up for nights trying to figure out how to show my better half 8,000 miles away what these deaths meant to me. To us.

After a few sleepless nights, this is what I came up with…

If you do use my video, all that I ask is that you provide attribution and to leave it in its original form. Thank you.

To our fallen:
Lt. Col. Frank D. “Bruiser” Bryant
Maj. Jeffrey O. “Oz” Ausborn
Maj. Raymond Estelle II
Maj. David L. “Klepto” Brodeur
Maj. Philip D. Ambard
Maj. Charles A. Ransom
Capt. Nathan J. Nylander
Master Sgt. Tara Jacobs Brown
Mr. James “Jimmy Mac” McLaughlin

“We bid you goodbye but we will never forget you. For those who knew you well and loved you, the pain will be deep and enduring.”
Lt. Col. Mark Reents, NATO Air Training Command Afghanistan adviser

Welcome home, warriors.

27 April 2012 is the one year memorial of the fallen nine. Men and women I never knew, but who I feel I know so well. When you have someone in your life who lives, eats, breathes and fights with the same people day after day, they become part of you. You ask about them. You are told about them. You learn about them. They represent the voice at the other end of the phone line, or the recipient of thousands of your emails and oddly-timed Skype calls.

The guilt comes from knowing who the fallen have left behind. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children waiting to welcome them home. To imagine what their loss feels like is simply impossible. We will never know their pain. Ever. So let us, instead, remember the sacrifices they made for us.

Today, 27 April 2012, at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs there will be a memorial to honor two of their graduates: Lt. Col. Frank D. “Bruiser” Bryant, Jr. (Class of ’95) and Major David L. “Klepto” Brodeur, Sr. (Class of ’99). In remembrance, a beautiful bench now lives on the grounds of the academy’s cemetery where “Klepto” was laid to rest. “Bruiser” was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

I know today will be a difficult one for you. This time, last year, you were identifying the bodies of those who you respect, admire and love. You stood strong in front of hundreds of your fellow brothers and sisters when they needed it the most. This time, you are home, and will need to stand strong once more.

You’ll always be in my thoughts, today and tomorrow. Let each day grow and grow.
Keep smiling and never give up when things get you down.
Build that foundation strong and sturdy.
Master Sgt. Gary Gordon
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