But the larger point is that I had seen him running scared, and it brought me to the first vague stirrings that life was not going to be easy or even fun; that life could be a bitch not above kicking you in the groin if you so much as winked at her; that there would be some terrible scars before it was done; that one day there would be a young boy looking up at me, wanting answers, and about all I might be able to give him in the way of solid advice would be to suggest he go into a clinch when they started working on the head. Here we had been working on the theory that he was unbeaten and untied, the last of the indomitable heroes, and now I knew differently and he knew I knew differently. From there, we began.
So [Robert E.] Lee’s treason, his betrayal of his oath as an officer of the United States Army, is sort of personal to me, and I am offended by his lying (if he never meant it when he swore the oath) or his two-faced nature, if he did. Snowden? Manning? Pshaw. They are nothing compared to a man who actually commanded forces that killed tens of thousands of American soldiers. I resent Lee’s subsequent fame which stemmed solely from his ability to kill American soldiers. As an American soldier, that strikes me as wrong.
Memorial Day for those of us who have fought is not simply a broad recognition of the sacrifices rendered by the dead, but an understanding of the exchange of life for life. Chevy’s gift to us wasn’t so much his skill or his grit. It was an endowment of time, at first measured in the seconds after his Stryker was toppled to its side. He absorbed the beginning of an ambush that could have killed more men. Those seconds he bought us stretched into minutes and hours, transformed into days, weeks. They built years. His gift was a nanosecond exerted under thousands of pounds of pressure that crippled steel and broke his body, but the effects stretch into the infinite. For the men of our platoon, every new life created, every new career, graduation, marriage, divorce, every discovery flows along the detonation cord tied to the stack of anti-tank mines that exploded under Cpl. Brian L. Chevalier, Chevy to us.