27 Jan Alive Day
This article was previously written for another effort, but I felt like sharing it here since today is the anniversary of losing three heroes.
Alive Day……where do I start with this one. I think the best way to start with this one is by sharing a post from my good friend Dan Metzdorf, because Alive Day is his. Now we are going to share “Alive Day” with everyone.
“My meaning (not websters) of the term “Alive Day” – the day (Jan 27th 2004) I was wounded in combat and the only reason I am Alive today is because of the calm heroism of Tony Southard and his Ace Ventura driving abilities, fast action of George Barbee and his medics stripping me naked and making sure my “package” was still intact, the incredible surgeon Big Rich Ellison and his forward surgical team watching me whine over the IV needle, Dr Ledford and her team in Germany that managed the close calls, and the awesome staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
But for those of you that know me, that’s not the only reason I am alive today. These 11 years have been tough to say the least, after experts put me back together phsyically other wounds emerged. These wounds people don’t see and don’t want to see either. These wounds aren’t in movies or shown on Facebook. These wounds aren’t sexy and cool. You won’t get a handshake or a free beer at a bar with these wounds. These wounds crushed me, drove me to a darkness unfathomable. These wounds were healed by love! I love living life and for that I thank you all and love you.”
The night of January 27th, 2004 would become a rough night for most of us. We were in Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. Probably the greatest group of men I’ve served with in my over 17 years of service across the tiers. That night would be the first loss of life in combat for us. We had been dropped into Iraq off-loading CH-47s onto Forward Operating Base (FOB) Kalsu just 10 days prior. We had just returned from Afghanistan a few months prior to getting the call to Iraq. FOB Kalsu at that time was pretty new and only contained what amounted to an Infantry company and a MP platoon. We were given humvees to operate with. These were unarmored “soft-skin” humvees. Keep in mind that Improvised Explosive Devices (I.E.D.) had not been the threat they would become at that time. We hadn’t really trained much for mounted operations, so we learned as we went and relied on the experience of our Delta Company folks that were used to being mounted. The night of the 24th 1st platoon would go out and conduct some drivers training on the Main Supply Route (MSR). I was back at the FOB, can’t remember what I was up to. I don’t remember the time, but we heard the explosion. Immediately we were concerned because it was close. Soon the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) came alive.
Word of the worst kind started coming in. I’m not going to go into great detail about the events of that night in this forum for my own reasons. What we would come to find out was that six of our people were around an IED when it went off. We lost three of them immediately. 2nd LT Luke James (1st Platoon Platoon Leader), SGT Cory Mracek (1st Platoon Forward Observer), and SSG Lester Kinney (Delta company) were all lost that night. Injured were Dan, SSG Robert Jepsen, and SPC Jamie O’Connell.
What you need to know is that thanks to the efforts of Tony Southard and the 1st Platoon Paratroopers, no more lives were lost that night. Dan was injured the worst of the three and Tony took quick action to rally the troops and get them all back. Dan and Jamie were put in the back of an open top cargo humvee and Jepsen rode back secured to the hood while others stayed to secure the site. I was there when the vehicles arrived to the aid station and things didn’t look good. Just one of the several memories seared into my mind from that night and the coming days. The efforts of everyone involved and our medical folks were amazing. It seemed like forever, but in reality it probably didn’t take that long for the MEDEVAC bird to get there. The rest of us were just helping out any way we could. I was on one end of the stretcher carrying Jepsen to the MEDEVAC.
I’ll just tell you, putting your comrades on a helicopter knowing the state they’re in and watching it fly away isn’t a good feeling. On one hand you have faith in God and the medical personnel that will take care of them, but on the other you’re worried you’ll never see them again. Dan was the worst of the three and his condition was part of what left the knot in my stomach that night. The other was that, here it was 10 days into our deployment and we lost three brothers. More so than ever, it was game on.
If you know Dan, you know he has personality for days. I had known Dan for awhile before this happened. Knowing his big personality and constant humor, my thoughts that night were “I never wish this on anyone, but if it’s going to happen to anyone…at least I know Dan can handle it.” I guess that was my way of coping with the worry for my friend.
Dan and Robert were taken back to Germany where they could get the medical attention they needed. Through conversations with Dan’s surgeon, the phrase “alive day” was born. Since that time Dan has had some struggles as he stated above in his post. Every year, on the anniversary of the events that took place that night is Dan’s “alive day”. Those of us who know him have come to know that. It’s a phrase that’s stuck.
Robert Jepsen on the left looking to his left, and Dan on the right with the cane.
This was at Pope AF Base on our return from Iraq. We wanted them to come out
to the plane and lead the formation walking back in. It was important and meant a lot
to everyone involved. There’s no feeling like arriving back home and being able to
see our friends alive and well made it that much more special.
Fast forward to this year’s “alive day”. I had just recently ordered some patches for my company, so patch ideas where in my head. I hit up Dan in a message and brought up the idea of making a patch. From there our ideas began to spread like a wild fire. “Alive Day” was not born, but officially branded. We brainstormed the logo quite a bit and based off our ideas came up with what now is the logo.
So our idea is to bring “Alive Day” to everyone. To make it mean something to everyone. As we brainstormed it we came up with many more examples of what “Alive Day” could mean for others. Of course most military guys can get the concept. Their “Alive Day” could be a day that they survived an IED blast as well, lost a friend, survived a gunshot, on and on. But “Alive Day” could also be applied to cancer survivors. It could be the day the doctor told them they were cancer free. It could apply to someone that survived a car wreck, overcame a life threatening illness or injury, or any other “close call”. It could also be they day of someone’s divorce decree from an abusive relationship, the day someone got out of jail and declared they would start a new life, the day someone kicked an addiction, the day someone retires. It could be every day for those that are just thankful to be alive every day.
We want to spread the concept of “Alive Day” and give everyone something they can identify with. And through products they’ll have a gentle reminder to “Remember the fight, and honor the memories”.