Thank you, 1st Lt. Shaun Blue, for a life of integrity and service
Do Americans truly appreciate the sacrifice that this marine made on their behalf?
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Etched into the polished stone is a picture of Blue in his dress blues. As I looked into the granite, I locked eyes with the engraving of Blue and had to pull away because I was hit by a wave of emotions I had never felt before. As I tried to gather my composure, Blue's mother, Debbie, came over and gave me a hug. I felt selfish. I should have been comforting her. She lost her son and here she was comforting me. I saw again where Blue had gotten his most important leadership trait. The entire Blue family has character.Skip to next paragraph
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On the way back to the Blue household, another lieutenant and I discussed what a shame it was that Blue had been killed. Our conversation then shifted to how only a small proportion of the American public truly carries the burden of this war.
The other lieutenant commented that while soldiers are risking their lives in Iraq, the majority of Americans are at the mall, oblivious to the sacrifices the military personnel and their families are making on a daily basis. In no time, the atmosphere in the car got very bitter.
Standing ovation at Kilroy's Pub
To lighten the mood, we pulled into Kilroy's Pub & Restaurant in Lansing, Ill., just outside Munster.
Inside, about 30 local patrons stopped talking simultaneously and stared at us. We were, after all, wearing our Marine Corps dress blues. When we tried to buy two beers, several locals fought over who would get to buy us the drinks.
We sat down next to a local who introduced himself as "Sticks." He asked us why we were in town. We told him. Sticks stood up and asked for the bar's attention. He announced the reason for our visit and then everyone in the room stood and gave us a lengthy ovation. They had heard of Blue. We had to practically fight to get out of the bar and back on our way to Blue's parents' house.
During the drive, the other lieutenant and I decided that although the rest of the country might not care, people in the small towns definitely appreciate the military's sacrifice. We decided that the majority of the country is not anti-military. They are just indifferent and largely unaware of the enormous burden that the young men and women in service carry in the name of their freedoms.
Consequences of pulling out of Iraq
Five years after the start of the Iraq war, and a year after Blue's death on April 16, I feel we are obligated to the Iraqi people and the rest of the world to not hastily abandon what we have invested so much in. I truly believe America can be an agent for change. I have often asked myself: If we pull out, what type of future would we be allowing to come about?
Sometimes I feel alone in my reasoning. That day in Munster I did not. That day I was proud to be a marine and proud to be an American.
I like to think that if the streets of heaven are guarded by marines, as the Marines' hymn suggests, that 1st Lieutenant Shaun Blue is now forever walking the lines of the perimeter checking on the marines defending their eternal post.
• Luke Larson served two tours in Iraq as a Marine lieutenant with the Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment. He now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his wife, Kristen. They're expecting a child this November. If it's a boy, they plan to name him Blue.