During most of 2008 and early 2009, I had the privilege to serve our country in Northern Iraq as a mobilized US Army Reservist. But, these thoughts are not about me, but rather CPT Adam Snyder, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.
You see, in my civilian job, I serve as the Director of Volunteer Services at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, KY. When I learned in November 2007 of my pending deployment, one of our volunteers mentioned that his nephew, Adam Snyder, was stationed only about 20 miles from where I would soon find myself. This volunteer expressed his hope that Adam and I might meet during our time of mutual deployment. Understandably, this volunteer expressed a very high opinion of his nephew who had graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point only a few years earlier.
Unfortunately, just before I left for my deployment, on the day we held our Volunteer Christmas Luncheon at the hospital in December of 2007, the volunteer received word that the vehicle in which Adam had been traveling had been hit by an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) and Adam’s chances for survival were slim. Adam did not survive that attack.
Because the brigade and division headquarters in which Adam served was located near where I was in Iraq, upon my arrival, I had an opportunity to “meet” Adam and pay my respects in the land where Adam last was on this earth. Unfortunately, at that time, there were quite a few others who had lost their lives and a memorial was erected to those soldiers that all could see upon entering the headquarters building. An artistic soldier captured well the emotions experienced by soldiers who have lost a comrade through his painting on the wall by the fallen soldier memorial. You can see in the photo, “dog tags” with the name of each soldier who had lost his life are hanging on the weapon. On the wall, the ID tags were also respectfully displayed on the wall near the entry. And, no one could enter the headquarters without viewing the perpetually running PowerPoint remembering each fallen soldier.
It was during a Memorial Day Service on May 26, 2008, while serving in Iraq during which I discovered the depth of my appreciation and respect for Adam and the many others who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service. I was overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility to continue carrying the torch of freedom – because of the men and women who had gone before and on whose shoulders I stand.
The photo to the right was displayed during this Memorial Day Service in Iraq during which Adam’s name was called – along with so many others. The words underneath the image say, “Lord, grant me the strength …” This image and phrase so accurately captures how I felt each day of service while there. And, I’m confident it is how many, many others have felt during their time of service – wherever that might be.
Now, as I prepare for Memorial Day this year, and every year, I thank God for Adam and all the other brave men and women who have selflessly served our nation, those who continue to serve, and those who will elect to assume the mantle of service in the future.