How do you view Memorial Day? Do you think of this day as another day off of work? Is this just another day to you? Being a veteran myself, I see a lot of people thanking veterans on this day. I truly appreciate your thanks, even though I feel like I didn't do anything other than serve my country. We celebrate Veterans Day for that. No, this day is for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
During my five years in the Air Force, I lost two very close friends. During Desert Shield/Storm, my friend, Dom Ghiloni was exposed to radioactive material. This was said to have caused a tumor in his brain, to which ended his life prematurely. I first met Dom while we were stationed in Balikesir, Turkey. I had just returned from Germany, after having knee surgery. Dom came to me and asked if I was the one from Ohio. Of course, I was. Columbus, Ohio is my hometown. Dom was from Newark, Ohio, and a huge Buckeye fan. Needless to say, we became instant best friends. We traveled around Turkey together, watched the Reds sweep the As in the 1990 World Series, watched Buckeye football games, all in the early A. M. hours due to the time difference. We were inseparable. Then came the time for me to transfer back to the States. Dom went on to Italy after that. I lost contact with him but, later made contact with his family in 1998. The voice on the other end of the phone said Dom had passed away. I was floored. I cried for a while. I lost one of my best friends ever.
In 1991, I was stationed at Hill AFB in Utah. I was a member of the Peacekeeper Challenge team. This is a team of Security Police who compete against other bases in firearms, fitness and combat readiness. Brett Kinton was one of my teammates. He was also a great friend. We worked many posts together. At the young age of 18, he was pretty mature. Not to mention a hell of a pistol shooter. We competed at Edwards AFB in California that year. We represented well. Brett had told me how he lost both his parents earlier in his life. His family had been through a lot already. I remember coming back to the base and talking to the officer at the Southwest Gate. She asked me if I had heard about Brett. Then she said I needed to get to the dorm because he had passed away. When I arrived at our dorm, I saw an ambulance and several of our patrol cars there. Brett was found, by his roommate, dead in his bed. He had passed away in his sleep.
My Father-in-Law was a retired Security Policeman as well. He served in Viet Nam and received the Bronze Star for saving lives during an attack on his base. I always looked up to him and, it wasn't until his passing that I learned about his heroism. Great man. I miss him very much.
All of these Airmen were dedicated to their country. They served proudly. To me, this is what Memorial Day is about.