09/21/2004: The Face of the War:
LCPL Drew M. Uhles, United States Marine Corps
September 19, 1983-September 15, 2004
1st Bat., 7th Marines, 1st Marine Div., I Mar. Exped. Force
Killed in Action: Al Anbar Province, Iraq
Requesciat in Pace
AP report (via Chicago Sun-Times)
Meditation by Rex Duncan, DuQuoin, IL (scroll to "Cardinal Baseball - A Bridge Over Troubled Waters")
The news came as a hammer blow, a shock that has rippled throughout the entire region of southern Illinois where I live. Lance Corporal Drew Uhles, United States Marine Corps and a member of the graduating class of 2002 of Du Quoin High School, was killed in action in Iraq on September 15. Drew was the first southern Illinoisan, let alone the first from my hometown, to be killed in action in Iraq. He would have turned 21 on Sunday.
As you can imagine, this has been a tough weekend in our small town. Electric news like this affects people differently and individually. Some cry, some remember, others reflect on “the meaning of it all.” Loss and war touch every emotion in the human psyche. Sometimes those emotions are kept below the surface, fragile and easily disturbed, but not obvious. At times like this, our emotions are in full public display. We are sadder, perhaps a little more irritable, worried, confused. Our eyes are redder than the normal fall allergy season could account for. I, for one, am quick to look for some semblance of normalcy, some anchor that I can fall back on to give me the hope that better days are out there somewhere.
I regret that I didn’t know Drew personally. I had seen him around town and knew him to be one of the good teenagers. He was a hard worker, a good drummer in the high school band, quiet, polite, but off the radar a little bit because he wasn’t in trouble and stuck with his family and close friends. Quality young people like Drew are the bedrock of our future who will someday shape a community. He knew since he was 8 that he wanted to be a Marine. He did just that, and did it well.
His death isn’t that of a faceless somebody that can be rationalized away. He was one of us and his loss to this community is huge. Since word of his death broke, everyone in town is seeking their anchors again. I went to mass twice (ironically, one of those times to the funeral for an 83 year old veteran who waded ashore at Omaha Beach) and prayed for Drew and his family. I stayed home this weekend, anchored to my own family.
Though never forgetting Drew’s sacrifice and the fact that he died defending all that we hold dear in this nation, I’ll start seeing that there are indeed better days ahead and that life will begin to return to that “normal” state that we all seek in these turbulent times. I’ll feel better.
I only wish Drew’s parents could. For them, the pain is just beginning. They and all who sacrifice so much in the defense of our nation must remain in our thoughts and prayers. We must never take for granted the joys of an afternoon baseball game on a quiet summer day. Americans like Drew Uhles have died so that we can continue to enjoy such simple freedoms.
Len on 09.21.04 @ 08:21 AM CST