7.19.2008

Remembering A Friend


MBT-M1A1_Abrams_tank by MATEUS_27:24&2 5's CC License

I had a dream last night. To begin with, I couldn't get to sleep, I've been grinding my teeth lately worrying myself about various things. I finally feel asleep and dreamt this.

I was on a road trip from KY back to Indiana. Along the Interstate, there was a soldier in full pack, hitching a ride. We stopped and it was my old friend Rob. He piled in, now in civvies and we talked and laughed and reminisced then when we came to a rest stop, he announced that this was his stop. Next I was looking out the back of the car window, he was standing, now back in uniform, waving and smiling. I woke up, sweating. I padded into the kitchen, poured a glass of whisky and sat in the moon-lit silence of my living room, remembering, smiling and fighting back tears.

Robert (Rob) Stucker was born and raised in my hometown of Waldron, IN. He was the little brother of my best friend, Allen and my adopted little brother. He was a practical joker, misanthrope, State Wrestling champ, and just someone you loved being around. His enthusiasm for life was infectious. On Saturdays, we would all play outside and hang-out, if their father Russ was home from his truck-driving job, we would encourage him to tell stories about WWII and Korea. Then in the afternoon, our local PBS station aired Dr. Who. It didn't matter if there were three, four or five 20 min. episodes, they would show them all back-to-back. We were in Nerdvana. Just following Dr. Who (unless it was a long one) Rob would make us switch to Rat Patrol. He loved it. He would say, that's what he wanted to do. "What?" we'd ask, "Drive around the desert in a tank?" Yup!

Not many people get to do what they love, Rob had that chance. He went to Purdue, enrolling in ROTC and graduated as a second LT in the Marines. He loved it! He was frustrated at first, because many of his first assignments were on board Air Craft Carriers and he hated it. Structured boredom he called it. Then came Operation Desert Storm and guess where he ended up? Yup!

Rob was in charge of a Tank brigade. He and his men were positioned in the vast desert just outside Kuwait. The I Marine Expeditionary Force and coalition forces began the ground assault on Iraqi defenses in the final chapter. Rob, his men, the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions all stormed into the teeth of Iraqi defenses while heavily armored allied forces attacked the Iraqi defenses from behind. Several times ending up in fire-fights and being gassed by a noxious combination the Military still aren't sure of. Twenty-Four US Marines would die in that assault. After things were over, he received two medals, a commendation and a promotion. Rob left the Marines, though he stayed in the Reserves. He married a wonderful woman, had two boys and worked in an auto factory in North Central Indiana.

Like so many in that War (ANY war) he suffered after. He lost his family and his way; he was living alone and he was suffering. Silently.

Then there seemed to be hope. He was talking again to his ex, Angie and they had plans to attend a Marine Dance together. That night, he never showed up to pick her up. She repeatedly called, with no answer. With a mixture of anger and worry, still in her formal gown, she drove to his place; where she found him dead. Sitting in a chair, wearing his Marine Dress Blues, he'd shot himself in the head with his Father's WWII service revolver.

I realized that my sub-conscious remembered what I had forgotten. This month is the 10th Anniversary of his death and I miss him terribly. I just want to urge any who read this, if you know someone, suffering in silence, VET or not, reach out to them. They may push you away, but at least try. Just try.

Semper Fi my friend.

2 comments:

  1. It's tragic to lose a friend under any circumstances but something about a soldier home physically safe but mentally suffering is a special kind of heartbreak. I appreciate your willingness to share this story with us.

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  2. Very touching, David, and a nice tribute to Rob indeed. On a side note, dreams are such an interesting and mysterious part of our condition, aren't they.

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