Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
They found him at the back of Oceanside Pier
on a grey, cold, overcast Spring day.
He just returned from combat in Afghanistan,
the pain of the fighting evident to all--
but could not bring himself to admit his problem.
He was stationed on Camp Pendelton,
an infantryman fresh from MRCD San Diego
and AIT at the Pendelton School Of Infantry.
He just finished his first tour overseas,
in a mountain hell his bros called "Trashcanistan."
However, when you walk with Death every day,
you never return to your home unchanged.
"A Marine Is A Man, And A Man Is A Marine"
his instructors told him since Boot Camp--
and John Wayne was the "Marine's Marine."
The Code of The Duke did not allow for weakness,
nor did it allow warriors to get needed help.
So our Marine just sucked it up and kept on.
With each day, however, things were getting worse--
yet none of his squaddies chose to take notice.
The pain soon became too great to bear anymore.
He called a VA Helpline--but was put on hold for an hour.
He then was told he would be heading back overseas
for another thirteen months walking the mountains
and trying not to become a Taliban sniper's trophy.
So, on that Spring day, he walked to the Oceanside Pier.
He watched the seagulls flying and looking for fish.
There were diners at Ruby's taking a drink and meal,
and others trying their luck with line and fishing pole.
It would be his last day, the sea beckoning him onward.
At the end of the pier, he took a final drink of Ronrico,
toasting his fallen friends whom he soon would join.
He pulled out a loaded 1911A1 from his jacket pocket,
begged God's forgiveness for leaving life like this--
then put the muzzle under his chin and pulled the trigger.
The hollow-point round exploded out the back of his skull,
feeding the sealife below with blood and cerebral matter.
An hour later, his corpse was taken to San Diego
for a mandatory autopsy by the Medical Examiner.
His family was notified, as were his squaddies and NCOs.
The CO of the regiment he served with called him a coward,
saying he took the "pogue yellow" way out, not the "Man's way."
He was denied burial at Fort Rosecrans for his actions,
his body then cremated and sent back home to Fresno.
His folks were rightly enraged at the callousness to this tragedy.
War not only destroys bodies, but shreds minds as well.
No matter where they fight them, it becomes a outright Hell.
We would do well the remember the pain of our heroes,
for not all injuries can be treated with bandages and splints.
You cannot see the injuries--but they are very real indeed.
Each warrior who dies is a tragedy, no matter how they fall.
Their families and friends feel the pain their warrior felt,
but must live with that demise for generations to come.
The pain that drives suicide is not rooted in cowardice--
but the bigotry towards the victims most certainly is.
The Duke was merely a movie character, not a role model,
and even the strongest will can shatter eventually.
So remember the pain of all of our fallen heroes,
for it may be a face you don't know today...
but tomorrow, it could just as easily be you.