MEMORIAL DAY: Afghanistan
For the past 10 days I traveled throughout Afghanistan with these comedians. All military veterans whose mission was to make every troop we had the pleasure to perform for laugh. We are accompanied here by the heroes who were in charge of keeping us safe throughout our tour. It’s one of my life’s greatest pleasures to befriend people like every single one of these gentlemen while entertaining our men and women answering the call. From big established bases to remote small FOBS (Forward Operation Bases), the mission was executed perfectly. I feel extremely thankful today in particular because I try to honor our brothers and sisters lost by living the fullest life possible. Every trip taken to see our service members reminds me the value of life and freedom.
Thank you To The Fallen.
This Memorial Day interview I did with Bridge Street in Syracuse really explains why it’s so important to me. Thanks for having me ladies.
I sat in a C-130 plane transporting remains of lost service members in August of 2007. I was on the tail end of a month long tour of the Middle East entertaining troops. That late night into early morning the universe took on a silence I can still feel to this day.
As I sat for 5 or so hours with American Flag draped coffins, I realized how precious life really is. I reflected on all I’ve been able to do since I wore a uniform. The time that has passed and the value life has gained with that time. Time that whomever was in those Flag Draped coffins no longer had.
I did not know their branch of service, their gender, age or final destination to be laid to rest. What I do know is what they sacrificed. Who they made that sacrifice for & most of all why. I know it in my bones and have never been the same since.
That part has not always been easy. Maybe it’s a dramatic nature, empathy or just life, but they never really leave me. I’m not haunted. I’m aware. Very aware how precious life is. How fortunate mine has been and I often wonder why? I ponder once in awhile about why. Why am I still trotting about when others are not. I’m no better than anyone. Especially those who we shared that plane ride with. Why am I living a pretty amazing life?
My answer is because of individuals like them. Individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice. I participated in the removal (from the plane) ceremony. Standing at parade rest in muster with active service members. When the caskets draped in our colors came within view we all snapped to attention. It was the 1st time I’d done so in over a decade. It also took on a new meaning that very second.
In a way Memorial Day is daily for me. For many no doubt. It’s a precious thing… This life. You don’t realize how precious life is until you live one. I’m still living. Thank You The Fallen
I served from 1990-1995. The 1st Gulf War took place on our watch. That time period defined my life, after having only a slight glimpse into the horrors of war. Since then, I have taken a number of trips back over to bring a little bit of humor to our service members. I feel I have to. I am no longer in, but I still have my duty. I still have my sense of family with those in uniform.
Today I see through the eyes of a thirty-something man, who feels somewhere along the line I got lucky in my youth, like I missed a bullet on my watch. Empathy for our service members past and present is with me constantly. The military is where I became a man. Where I gained the tools to achieve anything I set my mind to. Where I got my very best friends, who remain so to this very day. Individuals who don’t know how to leave you when times seem impossible. Part of me wishes I could stand side by side with our brave service members today, but another part of me would be asking many questions regarding the situation we are currently in. I feel each of those sides has come with age, and my cherished experiences with the type of individuals who would be at my side.
There was a point when I had to take a break from going over. I had seen too much & my mind had to really sort all of it out. I had taken trips every summer to Iraq & Afghanistan starting back in the spring of 2004. Then in August of 2007 I found myself on a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf – again – this time not a sailor, but a comedian. I was with my great friend and fine comedian Dan Smith, standing on the deck of a Naval LPD Ship, taking in the sunset. I remember he said to me, “This is the same ship you were on when you were here in the Persian Gulf… that is insane! Now you are going to do comedy for these sailors… Do you realize how amazing that is? You must feel so proud Peej.” I replied, ”I’m not, Dan. It’s odd? I feel no pride whatsoever. I feel sad. I was here on a ship just like this one, in this same exact place when I was 19 years old. Young people lost their lives. I am here again at 35 and even more young people are losing their lives? I know I have grown… apparently we haven’t.”
I returned again to entertain our troops and sailors this past Christmas 2009. I know they put the uniform on for all of us faceless, nameless Americans. I know how genuinely special that is. I truly with every fiber of my being thank them and love them! Wherever they go, wherever they are stationed, I will show up with my bag of humor, and, just as important, be here for them when this all hopefully ends. We have to be! God Bless All Who Serve!