We all have our heroes. My list would look incomprehensible to someone else. Some of my heroes are Albert Einstein, John Lennon, Harlan Ellison, Johnny Cash, Mark Twain and Isaac Asimov. My Dad. I chose my heroes carefully and they mean a lot to me. They inspire me, they move me, in the end they make me want to be a better person.
I'd like to talk about one of my heroes today. One that I've know personally. His name is Jason Hill Estopinal. On February 15th of this year he was killed in Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED. I remember him as a baby, holding him and hoping I didn't break him, he was so small and looked so fragile. Why would someone trust me to hold onto something this small and breakable? But Jason and Claire did, they did more than trust me, they insisted. Babysitting was not something high on my list of fun things to do, but how could I say no? And you know what, it actually was fun. JJ as he'll always be known to me, was a ball of energy. He never sat still for more than a few seconds at a time. I made the mistake of running around the yard with him and wrestling with him, so that was what we had to do. At that time they had a house behind a golf course, so it wasn't unusual to find golf balls in their yard. We'd find them and throw them back to the golf course. For someone that was so small he sure could tire me out quickly.
After they moved to Georgia I remember the basketball goal Big Jason had put in their driveway. I'd stand out there throwing balls with JJ until I could barely lift my arms to throw another basket, but JJ would be raring to go for another thirty minutes.
I hadn't been to visit them for the last few years and for that I'll always blame myself. So I didn't see JJ grow into a young man. But I know he was a man of compassion and honesty and truth.
He decided to go into the Marines. How a young man or woman can make that decision, knowing that there is more than a good chance that they'll be put in harms' way, is something I find hard to understand. There has to be a belief there that they can do good, that they can help someone. We can argue the merits of our being in such a war as we are now in and if we should be there, but we can have that argument because of men and women like JJ. I may not support the war, but I will always support the men and women that fight it. They give us the ability to enjoy our liberties that we take so much for granted.
Until a young man, barely more than a boy, but a man in more ways than I can comprehend, is the point man on a squad patrolling a rural area of a country far from home steps on an explosive. Than we remember.
So today, Memorial Day, while I pay my respects and memorance to the thousands of men and women who sign up to continue to give us the freedoms to argue and fight and talk and live as free men and women every day of our lives while so many in the rest of the world don't have that opportunity I salute and remember a special memory, my personal hero Jason Hill Estopinal.
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