I am leaving in about 5 hours, and driving to St. Louis for the funeral of a woman I never met. Her name is Amanda Pinson, she was 21 - killed a few days ago.
Why am I driving 10 hours to her funeral, when I never met her in my life?
She was a U.S. Army soldier, killed in a mortar attack in Tikrit, Iraq on March 16, 2006. Her commanding officer is a dear friend of mine, and is (naturally) still in Iraq with the rest of his soldiers. If you are on my video games filter, on my personal journal, you've seen me talk about a man I know from playing FFXI, M. - how happy I was when he was home on R&R, how much I worry about him. M. was Amanda's commanding officer.
Especially because M. cannot be there, his wife S. (another dear friend of mine) wants to show all the support she can for Amanda's family - as do I. I want to make sure they know that someone cares about the fact their 21-year-old daughter was killed.
She had been recently promoted to E5, gotten engaged, and was due to come home on R&R herself soon. Her fiance was wounded in the same attack that took her life - I saw a photo of him, standing with the aid of a cane due to the shrapnel still in his leg, saluting the military memorial to his "baby girl" and I cried for the next 20 minutes. The look on his face will haunt me for the rest of my life, I think. That is why I am driving 10 hours to attend her funeral - to make sure that her family knows that there is someone out there who cares.
Everyone who knows me, knows that I am not generally pro-military, and that I absolutely don't support this war. But these soldiers - men and women who, many of them, are younger than me - I do support them. And dammit, I want to make sure that they know that.
Since I learned of Amanda's death, I have been bouncing between very sad and very angry about it. Life is sacred to me, and any premature loss of life hurts. Amanda certainly knew what she was signing up for when she joined the Army in 2003 - and she knew the risk to her life was real - but she believed in what she was doing. I may not agree with most military action - but I want to honor the fact that she knew her own convictions and followed them. She knew what she believed in, accepted the risks of that, and did it anyway. That is most worthy of honor.
If you would like to read the article that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the day after Amanda's death, it is available online. Danger Could Not Deter Local Soldier
If I receive permission to repost the photo of her fiance, I may post that at a later time, as well. For now, look at that article, at her picture - and know that she will never come home, never get married, never finish her dreams for her life. But also know that she died following her own convictions. I don't support the reason she had to be there - but I do support her, and all those like her, that truly believe in what they are doing.