Jose D. Sandoval

Jose D. Sandoval
Jose is a Corporal in the United States Marines stationed at Camp Leatherneck in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

FOR COUNTRY, MOM, AND APPLE PIE

Yellow ribbons around tree trunks line American streets, but the average American could not tell you what it means. No one but the families of our fallen, and our own know the possible end result of the sacrifices we make.

Day after day, we walk out into the sands we are tasked to protect. To show the people of an oppressed nation that we will not stand by and watch the many be terrorized by the few. We write and call home to patient and hopeful wives, husbands, sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers and try to assure them that we are safe, but the bombs and rockets throughout the day and night are hard to block out. Still, we square our chins, roll back our shoulders, sling our rifles and move forward. We will not let our families, our president or our country down. Failure is not an option.

We attend ramp ceremonies to pay our last respect to our fallen comrades. Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines: The branch of service to which the casket belongs does not matter to us. We stand perfectly still, eyes front, with crisp salutes, and catch a glimpse of Old Glory as she protects the vessel that takes one of our own to his or her final resting place, as she takes them home. Many of us have never seen, met or even heard of the person who lies in there, but slowly you begin to hear the soft sobs and sighs of service members: men, women, young and old alike, as our friend is loaded on that bird.

We return to our missions, and on radios or TVs we see or hear the word from home. “Supreme Court to rule on fallen soldiers funeral protesters: harassment or freedom of speech.” Our eyes cannot believe the screen. We lay down our lives so that some may waste theirs. We don’t ask for acknowledgement, or praise, or medals. We just want to give a little back to a country that has given us so much. We watch with gleeful eyes as our brothers and sister from different corners of the globe and different walks of life raise their right hands, and under the rocket filled skies of the desert, swear their allegiance to our great nation and become American citizens. But afterwards we read in the papers of domestic terrorists, and citizens calling America the home of the damned. Still, we stiffen our lips, swallow the lumps, and stand our post. Ever vigilant, anticipating the enemy’s next move. Day, night, rain or shine, we stand watch.

We come home to our beloved country to find, waiting for us, the reasons we do what we do. The flight attendants who endure the long grueling task of tending to 100 plus excited men and women waiting to get home to U.S soil. The welcome home parties of men and women who stand at the gate in the wee hours of the night, to cheer for us as we step off the plane. Among them there is an old man, a veteran. From Vietnam maybe, or even World War II, we don’t know. He can barely walk, but, refusing help from others, he stands up from his wheel chair and shakes each and every one of our hands. We ride the long ride back to base. We arrive at the parade deck to see the signs, the cheers… the beer… the wives, husbands, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers. We see that there is still hope. There is still purpose. And we realize why we do it.

For Country, Mom, and Apple pie.

Author’s Note: I wrote this piece in reference to my time here in Afghanistan