Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tribute Letter...a fallen Marine

...this letter was given to me yesterday by a United States Marine. It was written, by that Marine, to the parents of Cpl. Michael B. Lindemuth, who recently gave his life in Iraq.
Corporal, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, the loss to the Corps and the loss to the Country. I can only imagine how much this letter will mean to his parents when they receive it...
Semper Fi...

Mr. and Mrs. Lindemuth,
I called into my drill center in L----, M---- today to get all the good dirt about what was going on around the unit. My Platoon Commander, Sergeant H---- answered the phone. We spoke for a few moments, and then he asked me, “Hey, you were in 3/2 with Mike Lindemuth weren’t you?”

“Oh yeah,” I answered, “he and I were good friends back in Lejeune when I was on active duty before the war.”

“He died in Iraq dude,” said Sergeant H---.

And earlier today, that’s how I found out your son gave his life for our country. At first I was speechless. Too many times over the last two years I’ve heard about a fellow Marine I knew who died. Some I was closer to than others, but never anyone I knew as well as Mike.

I find myself thinking today about young Mike Lindemuth and his first few days in the fleet with us back in 3/2. I remember being very impressed with him. First off he was older than the other new guys. He was more confident, but not in a cocky way, he had a quiet confidence that resonated throughout his demeanor. I liked that when he endured hardship with the rest of the grunts, he’d use his folksy sense of humor to lead and encourage his fellow Marines. He recognized that he was older, and took care of them as best he could. Mike was such a good person.

It didn’t take very long for him to be assigned a team of Marines of his own, and we in CAAT Platoon were impressed with how he handled them. Stress and pressure just made him smile. He wasn’t a yeller, he didn’t lead by intimidation. His Marines followed him because of the example he set and lived by.

But what I remember most about Mike was his character. Now all Marines have character. When you first meet a few jarheads the uninitiated might be shocked at the gruff, profane persona that follows us in our everyday lives. But those same foul mouthed, abrasive grunts would give somebody the shirt off their back if they met a person they knew needed it more than they did. They’re mostly painfully young and innocent. To be an Infantry Marine means to be part of a small, tight knit family that makes up a platoon. Grunts share every hardship and possession, and are more than willing to lay down their lives for their friends. Almost every grunt has that kind of character. That’s more than one can ask out of most people. But Mike had something more.

I was struck by his character and his morality. A lot of guys get to combat and get pretty religious. Mike was devoted to God long before any of us had heard a shot fired in anger. I respected him for practicing what he preached, for being such a moral man. I want you to know he really lived it. I think that his relationship with God was where that quiet confidence came from.

Being both from M---, we made friends quickly. I remember him making the shape of the state with his hand, trying to show me where in the heck P---, M--- is.

I also remember that red truck of his, the one with all the stickers. There were a lot of M--- guys in 3/2, and with our friends who couldn’t get to their own homes for liberty we’d pile into our cars and visit our families. I took more than a few of these trips with your son.

Today I’m thinking about one road trip in particular. I rode home with Mike shortly before our deployment to Okinawa, and we got lost. And had a lot of fun doing it too. Mike was so laid back; he just took that trip in stride. A lot of guys would have been frustrated taking one second longer than necessary to get home. Not Mike. We laughed and joked about our predicament, and found our way. In the 15 hours we spent together in that red truck, we talked about his love for creating things. His (anyone who knew him knows what I mean here) absolute passion for carpentry and working with wood.

We talked about religion. I’m not a particularly religious guy, and it concerned Mike. He wasn’t like many of the other Christians I’ve met in my life. He didn’t preach the gospel to me, but instead showed compassionate concern that I did not enjoy a true relationship with Christ. It downright worried him. His concern wasn’t selling the church to me, but the fate of not only my soul, but my happiness here on earth which he felt I could never have without Jesus.

But I must say his main concern during all these conversations was that I did NOT know how to drive a stick shift. He might not be able to bring me to Christ, but that stick shift problem he was sure he could remedy. For the rest of my life, whenever I drive a manual transmission I will think of your son, because he taught me to drive a stick.

“You’re senior to me, how in the heck can I take orders from a guy who can’t drive a stick!?” And so he taught me how right on the spot. What a “Can do” guy. Things were going fine…until I pulled over for gas in West Virginia. I stalled the truck out getting off a steep off ramp and couldn’t get it started up fast enough. I rolled right into a car behind us. I was of course mortified, but Mike just laughed…and drove the rest of the way to M---. I can’t recall ever seeing him angry. He was such a cheery laid back guy.

The last time I saw him, we were in Djibouti, Africa. Of all the places, it’s a small Corps I guess. I had since long gone from 3/2 and was in a reserve unit deployed to the Horn of Africa. Mike had shipped over to 2/2 to go to war with the MEU. His unit made a long stop in Africa, and one day out of the clear blue sky I ran into him in the chow hall. I saw him first. He was alone, and I greeted him in the manner of salty corporals who haven’t seen each other in a long time. I tackled him right there in the chow hall. We were wrestling and laughing, knocking over tables and chairs. We were so glad to see each other. I was so glad to see him. The first few minutes of conversation were so excited; an outsider could never have understood what we had just said to each other. After a few obligatory head butts and a lot of dirty looks from Air Force personnel, we had dinner and made plans to meet up a few days later at the bombed out E-club on Camp Lemonier.

Mike was most definitely a moral man, but he knew how to have fun too. We succeeded in sneaking away from our units and got really good and drunk. It was a great night. It just so happened it was my 24th birthday, and I was thrilled to celebrate it with an old friend from 3/2. The last time I laid eyes on Mike, we were singing loudly and obnoxiously…stumbling to our respective tents. Shortly after he shipped for Iraq the first time.

When I heard Mike had reenlisted to be I&I in Ohio, I was floored. I figured I’d see him around the battalion at AT or a range. I was excited to see him again.

Sergeant H---, who was a close friend of Mike’s in 2/2 and a fellow Javelin heard and passed on the news to me today.

Mike wasn’t my first buddy to die. There aren’t many of us NCOs around anymore who haven’t lost someone. Let me tell you, this never gets any easier for me. It’s like taking a shot in the gut every time, only that punch to the gut lasts for weeks. I guess the first question I always ask is “Why?” Why Mike and not some other guy? Why not me for that matter?

I look around at our world and sometimes I wonder if the death of a friend like Mike is worth it. Is this whole Global War on Terrorism thing worth the cost? Are the Mikes of the world worth spending so we can eat McDonalds and drive SUVs? It doesn’t seem so. But that of course is the bitter first reaction of someone feeling loss.

I imagine Mike’s flag draped coffin and in my mind’s eye I see the embodiment of Semper Fidelis. I think of Mike, and I am proud to have known a man who was willing to pay the cost so that my wife can live free. So my daughter can grow up. So that my mother and father can vote and worship the way they choose.

I think of the enemy Mike and I’ve fought and what they’d do to my family given the chance and I’m ashamed at myself for doubting Mike’s cause for even one second. Mike died a hero not for the anonymous entity that is “The United States,” but for me and everyone and thing here I know and love. Mike knew from experience what I know, that America is the hope and light of this world and it is worth any cost.

Even more so Mike laid down his life for his friends, his fellow Marines. I wasn’t in Iraq that day. Another Corporal was doing his duty there so I didn’t have to. Somehow that seems so unfair. I feel in my heart I owe Mike and a lot of other grunts my family, my life, and my freedom. I am so proud to have known your son. My only bitter thought is that we who’ve survived must bare the burden, the realization that it should have been us. I’d trade my life for your son’s right now. But then again if that were possible, Mike would trade his for mine right back.

That’s love. Someone taught him how to do that. Someone taught him honor, character, and his defining morality. That was you. I can’t thank you enough for raising your son. This whole country can never pay you back for raising Mike. And there will never be an adequate way to thank him or you enough for your sacrifice.

Like I said, I’m not a very religious guy. But even I know that if there is a Heaven… Mike is there with God.

I can’t imagine or comprehend the absolute devastation you must feel now, I can only say that I am awed by you and don’t have the words to convey my respect. If there is anything I can ever do for you don’t hesitate to ask. It is my honor to be at your service.

--- ----

Cpl. Michael B. Lindemuth, age 27, was killed by mortar fire on April 13th, 2005 in Anbar Province, Iraq.
You can leave a message for his parents HERE...

No comments: