Tuesday, April 8, 2008

No Thanks, We'll Do It Our Way

Better days: Post-football game, Thanksgiving Day in Iraq, 2003. Don on the viewer's far left.

When its put out that there will be a memorial service for someone that a lot of the unit cared about, I expect something along the order of someone leading a simple service, with friends remembering that person's accomplishments and admirable qualities. When I walk into the designated military chapel and see a circle of chairs, I get very suspicious I'm about to get a surprise critical incident debriefing with the rest of the people who showed up for a memorial service. And when I hear, "Everyone please take a seat and take off your rank. What's said here stays here.", I know I'm in for one.

I don't like CIDs. I personally think they're an exercise in "look at me, I'm suffering, pay attention to me" that gives counselors a reason to be in camp. Apparently, that's what all the other people thought too. Because what we talked about wasn't how his death made us feel, but what we could do to ensure someday his child knew the type of man he was. About his always being up in front to take on a task; never turning down a friend in need; the time he pulled $150 out his own personal account for a homeless Iraq vet to get a hotel room for a couple of nights when he showed up at the VA looking for help. And about how much we regretted that we couldn't have done something for him when he was in so much anguish that he thought the only way out was ending his own life.

There were tears from men I've never seen cry, but there was a hell of a lot more laughter from remembering past times we'd been through with him; I think that's right and proper for a good man. We're National Guard; we drill and deploy with many of the same people year after year. Don had been with us for nearly ten years, and at least half of us had known him that long. At the company level, we're an extended family, and we feel it like a family when when we lose one of ours.

He'll be getting a military funeral in a military cemetery, which he earned in full with his service. In a year, I'll be making a bike trip to say the final good-bye that I can't do from here. In the meantime, there's a letter to write, pictures to copy, and remembrances to collect in a volume for when his child is older.


Ambulance Driver said...

"I don't like CIDs. I personally think they're an exercise in "look at me, I'm suffering, pay attention to me" that gives counselors a reason to be in camp."

Not only that, but they're psychologically harmful, the practice has been debunked by reams of research (other than that puvlished by Dr. Jeff Mitchell, its inventor), and virtually every credible psychiatric source in the entire world discourages the practice.

Better instead to go have another muddy football game in his memory, and raise a glass to absent friends.

MauserMedic said...

AD, I recalled your post on this type of situation earlier about two steps into the room when I saw the chairs drawn up in a circle. I don't have any empirical data, but my gut says a properly conducted CID benefits the one organizing it, but not anyone else. There will be a number of bottles emptied in his memory when our command finally lets us use our local club, and I know he'd agree with that being more fitting.