<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14945465/?claim=4sbzzkrbycp”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>It is Memorial Day 2016. Everywhere I look, people are reminding us about the purpose of Memorial Day, and why it is different than Veterans Day. Folks say, “thank you for your service,” on Memorial Day, and I want to say, “But I’m still here.”
I realized that I don’t have a strong personal connection to a military veteran who gave his or her life for our country. That’s really odd because I come from a historically military family. Then I remembered LtCol Palmer, and realized that, even though I didn’t know him personally, the impact he had on my son will place me forever in his debt.
Perhaps others don’t have a personal hero to think about on this Memorial Day. So let me tell you the story of LtCol Palmer and my son so that you, too, have a real context to reflect on our country, our freedom and those who gave their lives to protect it.
My son’s first duty station and assignment as a newly minted Marine second lieutenant. The Battalion Commander and most of the officers just back from the Middle East. Three young, naïve, green lieutenants report in, eager for their turn to go fight the bad guys.
LtCol Palmer believed in realistic training and preparation to carry out the mission of the Marine Corps as a “force in readiness.” To be always ready to lead against those who threaten our country, they must always be prepared.
It was from LtCol Palmer (nicknamed “Chili” after the character in Get Shorty) that my son learned the concept of designing provocative training scenarios, and in the investment in time and resources required for any training to be effective.
These three young lieutenants would most likely see battle, and LtCol Palmer set out to give them every opportunity to learn, fail and grow. A training mission in the Arizona desert simulated the environment that these air defense Marines might encounter, and they spent time there fine-tuning their technical skills as well as the leadership qualities that were necessary to lead Marines. LtCol Palmer set a high bar for my son; he modeled everything my son expected of a Marine Officer.
He also had a sense of humor – another lesson that has stuck with my son. After hard training, it was time to relax. As I understand it, beer was involved. Their adventures made for a great story when he called home.
Shortly after the Arizona training trip, LtCol Palmer was reassigned to a Marine Expeditionary Force and returned to Afghanistan. His mission: to train the Afghani police. On May 12, 2011, three weeks into the assignment and after three previous tours to the Middle East, a gunman dressed as Afghan police opened fire, killing LtCol Palmer and 27 year-old Sgt. Kevin Balduf.
My son and his Marines stood guard over the casket at the memorial service in Cherry Point, and gave his heartfelt condolences to LtCol Palmer’s wife and three children. He led a small detachment to Arlington representing the Battalion at LtCol Palmer’s interment.
LtCol Palmer lives in my son’s memory and I suspect my son is not alone. From the little I learned about him, he was a remarkable individual who demanded only the best, but met everyone where they were. He seemed to have that leadership quality that makes folks say, “I want to follow you.”
My son is now training newly minted second lieutenants. It’s probably fair to say that those new Marine officers continue to benefit from LtCol Palmer’s teaching.
Why am I writing this? I guess because it is just so easy to forget when it isn’t personal. I almost did, until I remembered my son’s stories about LtCol Palmer. I thought perhaps I would share in case anyone would like to have a deeper understanding of the people for whom Memorial Day is intended.