Most of my closest friends have heard me talk about a man named “Gunny” and they recognize that he is one of those guys that I adore. In my The First Sergeant on Mother’s Day post, I mentioned that there was a handful of guys who I gave away my heart to years ago and Gunny is one of them. He’s one of the men who I trust with my life. He’s also part of that small group of men that promised to bring me home in one piece.
So, why am I writing about Gunny? Well something special is going to happen Tuesday. My friend, Gunny, is going to graduate from college and I can’t be there to see it. I want to be there. I want to stand on my damn chair and scream, “Hooah, my brother! I’m so freaking proud of you!” at the top of my lungs. I wish I could take the guys along and let them do that big, deep voice, cop yell thing so that Gunny could hear us from the other side of the room and know how happy and proud we all are.
This has been no easy feat for our brother. He has fought more battles than most of us and while occasionally beat-to-hell by circumstances – Gunny has never bowed to the adversity.
I first met Gunny in ’93 at Nellis Air Force Base. He was a security police staff sergeant and a member of a rather elite unit. He has an incredible voice. It’s this rumbly, gravelly thing that starts somewhere south of baritone and can end up in the lower ranges of bass. He already knows that I have a thing for command voices so he’s probably not surprised that I’m saying it here. But, Gunny also has “the whisper.” The louder you get, the quieter Gunny can get. The next thing you know, you’re off balance from leaning in to hear what he has to say. He was known by most of the people he worked with as, “The Minister of Death.” He’d have the troops take a knee and give a tactical benediction that left more than one of us stunned by its beauty. He’s just one of the original “in case of war break glass” kind of men that I’m drawn to. And yes his wife knows that I adore him. She’s a wonderfully tolerant woman.
Gunny had already been to war by the time I came along and had more than one long-term health issue to face as a result of that mess. Please don’t try to tell me there’s no such thing as Gulf War Syndrome – there is and he’s been dealing with it. I remember seeing the man come to work in so much pain he could barely move. Joints that weren’t flexing and bones disintegrating before our eyes. Yet, the warrior was out there either doing PT or leading it. He did his time in the field even when he shouldn’t have. Gunny was a guy who signed on the line and if the job said walk ten miles with a fifty pound ruck, he wasn’t going to sit on his butt and watch everyone go by. He’d do the damn ruck, encouraging everyone else along the way. There was a job to do and Gunny was going to damn well do it.
He not only did his job then, but he kept doing it, and usually a little more – he’s a thorough guy. He steadily made rank and he kept learning and creating new things. As computers became an everyday part of our world in the military, Gunny became part of the folks that learned that skill and shared it with others. He finally retired as a master sergeant and moved on to a secondary career in personal protection. He went to the crappy places in the world and took on the job of protecting the people that were trying to rebuild the mess left behind by war. Like many others, he did more than his share, saw more than he should have, and he dealt with more than he should have had to deal with. He’ll just tell you that he was only doing his job. I think all of us heaved a sigh of relief when he came home to stay.
Gunny has spent the last several years doing what I consider to be great things. He’s built a business, married a smart, beautiful woman, and has become a father again. He’s had the doctors give him some bionic body parts to replace the crappy ones he had before, and he’s kept chugging along. Every once in awhile, we pick up the phone and talk to each other. Usually when life is beating one of us to a pulp, the other one steps in and does an intervention. We listen to each other whine, then abuse each other, and then agree that life is just pain, and what the hell – we have a high threshold. Hooah.
So now, I get to salute my friend as he completes yet another goal he set for himself all those years ago. He joined the military and said he’d be the best he could be at his job. Did that. He went to war and promised to come home. Did that. Swore he’d make Master Sergeant. Did that. Said he’d be there and take care of the person he was supposed to protect. Did that. Said he’d be the best husband and father he could. Does that every day. And he promised he’d get through college. Did that.
I couldn’t be more proud of you, Gunny. You are a man of your word and a man of honor. But I already knew that. I salute you, my brother.