Memories and Memorials
Yesterday, Jack (my husband) and I received a text from our good friend Dave Bellon. Dave is a four time combat veteran (2 in Iraq, 2 in Afghanistan) and Colonel in the United States Marine Corps. He and my husband go way back. As in back to 6th Grade. And they have indulged in every kind of adolescent antic together – from sneaking whiskey and cigarettes on the railroad tracks, to jumping off Dave’s roof and into his pool (beers in hand) while Dave’s parents were out of town, to doing shameful things to girls who let them while they raged on Spring Break at some God-awful, dorm-like hotel in Daytona Beach.
Although we live several states apart, Dave and Jack still indulge in those meandering, soul-scrutinizing spaghetti bowl conversations that so many men quit having with their friends right around the time they graduate from college. For those men sports take the place of a real exchange – one that risks exposure, intimacy. But not Jack and Dave. And that’s what touches me so deeply about their friendship. Sure, they laugh, they needle each other, they tell dirty jokes, but their banter is the antithesis of small talk. In fact, they speak only of that which matters and it is as refreshing as a bath in the snow – Swedish style.
So that’s why when my husband’s iPhone pinged on Memorial Weekend and Dave’s name came up, I knew he was reaching out.
It was a dreary Sunday in St. Louis, where Dave lives, and he was sitting in his suburban garage watching the rain storm. And he was remembering friends who had fallen. Brave men he had come to think of as brothers before they were ripped from his life. He was thinking of two, in particular, and he asked that we share their names and their stories with our children. We did. And I’d like to share them here as well if I may.
Lt. Col Kevin Shea (1966-2004)
Lt. Col. Kevin Shea was killed on September 14th, 2004 when he was mortally wounded in a rocket attack on Camp Fallujah in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was the highest ranking Marine to die in the Iraq War at the time of his death.
A 1984 graduate of Bishop O’Dea High School in Seattle, Washington, Shea accepted an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy, where he was a standout defensive end on the football team, played in the 1987 Freedom Bowl and was a member of the academy’s 1989 national champion rugby team.
After graduating, Shea accepted a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. There, he completed The Basic School (TBS) and the Infantry Officer’s Course at Quantico, Virginia.
Shea’s assignments included Support Company Detachment Commander, for the 9th Communications Battalion in Operation Desert Storm, Liaison Officer for Marine Forces Central Command (MARCENT) G-6, and JCSE Task Force Commander, Combined Special Operations Task Force, during Operation Desert Thunder, and Communications Officer (G-6) Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1), 1st Marine Div, Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
Shea also earned a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and served as an instructor in electrical engineering and a rugby coach at the United States Naval Academy, where he was revered by the students.
Shea received the Bronze Star a few weeks before his death. He did not inform his family.
After his death, a highly anticipated rugby match between the Naval Academy, then ranked No. 3 in the nation, and its rival Air Force was canceled when the Navy players decided unanimously to bow out to attend Shea’s memorial and interment at Arlington.
The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation administers a scholarship in Shea’s name. There is a chapter about Shea in In the Shadow of Greatness, written by graduates of the Naval Academy.
The Kevin M. Shea Memorial Unit Award is given annually to a United States Marine Corps unit that makes exceptional contributions to the Corps.
Gy Sgt Mike Davis (1982-2001)
Gy Sgt. Mike Davis was killed on December 11, 2001 at only nineteen years of age. He is the son of Gy Sgt and Mrs. Michael L. Davis of the United States Marine Corps. His tombstone at the Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola Florida reads simply Gy Sgt USMC Gone Fishing. For one so young, he left an indelible impression on all those who knew him, and the memory of his humor, his good nature, and his unflinching character goes some way to fill the hole vacated by his loss. And that’s saying something.
Please pray for these men and their families. Share their names with your children. Don’t let them be forgotten.