When the military releases their names, it’s just ink on a page.
Two Army Rangers, Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, of Bloomington, Illinois, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, of Kettering, Ohio, were killed while conducting a night raid against an ISIS-led group in eastern Afghanistan in late April.
You continue reading and the names start to have more meaning. You look at their ages and see that Rodgers was 22, Thomas 23. You find out that the two Rangers, who had each served three deployments overseas were struck possibly by friendly fire in the opening minutes of a three-hour firefight in the Achin district of the Nangahar province. The district is a primary base of operations for ISIS in Afghanistan and has been the site of multiple joint counterterrorism missions.
You pick up another story and you learn that both men joined the Army shortly after graduating high school in 2013. Rodgers’ former track and assistant football coach said he talked often in high school of his dream of becoming a Ranger. They both quickly progressed up the ranks, earning numerous decorations, and were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based in Fort Benning, Georgia.
You know you’re getting older, but you’re struck with their youth and their promise. They could have been the kid down the street, the same kid who regularly passed you when you went running in the evening. A few years ago, you ran by him and wished him congratulations on his high school graduation when you saw him in his Carolina-blue cap and gown. He thanked you and encouraged you to keep up the good work. You made some sarcastic remark back about trying to get back into shape, but for the life of you, you can’t even remember now what you said.
If not him, then he could have been the young man you saw shopping in the grocery store with his mother a few years ago. His mother held tightly onto the young man’s arm. She didn’t want to let him go and was obviously proud of him. You couldn’t help but notice the crew-cut, but you were especially struck with the way he carried himself. He looked people intently in the eye, listened before he spoke, and said “yes, sir” and “no, sir” when friends stopped him in the store. When you left the store, you remember saying a silent prayer that God would look out for him.
Honoring their sacrific
You click out of the last story on the two and feel a heavy sadness. From everything that’s available, Rodgers and Thomas had any number of options after high school, but they chose to be a part of something bigger. They chose to serve our country.
They are like so many in our country’s history. They gave of themselves and paid the ultimate sacrifice. With Memorial Day upon us once again, you will honor them and all who died serving in the U.S. Military, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of battle wounds.
There’s nothing that anyone can do to bring them back, but I make a commitment to remember them this Memorial Day and years to come.