Two years ago today, the nation of Haiti suffered a horrific earthquake that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Among them was my buddy, Ken.
I'll keep this short(ish) since death is kind of a morose topic, but the point I want to make is how important it is to remember those we care about. People fade from existence all the time, but the truly amazing ones deserve to be remembered. Maybe not a plaque or building named after them, but a raised glass in the bar at the very least.
Ken was, without a doubt, one of the finest gentlemen I ever knew. He was funny, easy-going, and a hell of a good pilot. An exchange pilot from the Air Force, Ken was our "Dash 2" on countless night missions. During one engagement, his Huey took several rounds, but you'd never know it talking with him afterwards. He laughed about it, showed me the bullet holes, and then wanted to watch Family Guy on DVD.
Calm and collected doesn't even begin to describe him.
But the most vivid memory was during an especially long stint at an outlying "base" ten miles from nowhere. It was the middle of the night and were sitting in the Air Boss tent, sweating our asses off, when a handful of mortar rounds landed nearby, one about 100 yards from our position. The concussion rattled our teeth and me, Kenny, and the rest of the guys bolted for the HESCO barriers just outside. Unlike the normal tall ones, these were less than waist high. Ken and I were crouched down beside them, eyes wide with fear and surprise when he started laughing. I asked him what was so funny and he pointed to the barrier and said something to the effect of, "Like these little things are going to help if we take a direct hit." I dunno, maybe it was stress or exhaustion, but that was the funniest damn comment of the night and we both lost it, laughing until tears soaked the sand at our feet.
That's how I remember him: A smile and a laugh during the worst of times.
Which is why his death in Haiti was such a shock. He survived combat only to die in the rubble of a hotel in Port Au Prince. It seems unfair, but it just goes to show how delicate life is and proves that we need to cherish those we love while we can. It also goes to show just how important it is to laugh as often as possible.
And Ken certainly set the example.
So Ken, I'll raise a glass to you this evening and send up a prayer for your wife and kids. You left the earth far too soon, but there will always be a cold Shiner Bock in the "Remembrance Plaque" at the O-Club for you and the rest of the ones we lost.
Thanks for the laughs, bud. You are sorely missed.