“Good men must die, but death can not kill their names.”
- Anonymous Proverb
Our battalion suffered terrible blows this past week, leaving me vainly grasping for words to describe the magnitude of our loss. In a handful of days we lost four great men, COL William Wood, CPT Michael Mackinnon, CPT Ray Hill, and SPC Shakere Guy. When I chronicle the ebb and flow of our days here in Iraq the words usually tumble out on their own accord, flowing from some burbling spring buried deep in my heart. But that spring lies dormant, and the words that do appear seem little more then an echo of the clear, and perfect memory I have of these great and noble men. I will never be able to express the cauldron of fire we pass through each and every day, and because I can’t even give real insight into our reality I fear that anything I might say about our fallen heroes will be an injustice to their memory. I will do my best to snatch my thoughts from the ether, but I know I will fail. To understand just how deep our loss really is you would have to know these beautiful, noble men yourself. And that won’t happen in this lifetime.
COL Wood was the commander of the Nightstalkers. He was a man who’s stern features seemed chiseled out of granite, but his strength and conviction eclipsed even that adamantine material. He was a man who led from the front, never asking his soldiers to carry out an action he wasn’t willing to perform himself. His steady hand and firm conviction guided the battalion, and his wisdom and far sight were unparalleled.
CPT Michael Mackinnon was my company commander, and my dear friend. Mike was a man of enormous talent - he could have done anything he wanted to in this world. But Mike didn’t seek money or fame. He wanted to serve his nation with valor, courage and distinction... and he did that better then any man I have known. Mike was our leader, and his legacy will live on in the hearts of every soldier in his command. I was honored to serve as his deputy, and blessed to be able to call him my friend.
CPT Ray Hill was an artilleryman by trade, looking back it seems almost ironic that a man with such an enormous love for his fellow man was responsible for the largest cannons in the battalion. I have known Ray for over five years, and I can’t remember ever seeing him without a broad grin on his face. The Iraqi people couldn’t have hoped to find a truer friend then CPT Hill. He believed in the intrinsic worth of the individual and deeply cared about the welfare of the Iraqis. He never ventured outside the wire without a bevy of presents and candy for the local children.
SPC Shakere Guy didn’t have to come on
this deployment – he volunteered to deploy with our battalion because he had
the heart of a lion. SPC Guy was a
Jamaican immigrant, but he personified all that is great about
In the face of so stunning a loss it is natural for the soul to grow weary, and for the mind to wail for that which has been so violently ripped away. It would be the easiest of things to let my heart turn as cold as death and let it pump my veins with frigid and poisonous ice. But that would dishonor the memory of our fallen, and would be an unfitting tribute to men who had given the last full measure of devotion. Instead I will do something far more difficult; I will continue onward and complete our unfinished work. There will come a day when I will weep bitter tears for my fallen comrades and friends, but right now there is much to be done. And it is up to those of us who knew these wonderful men to see it through to the end.