Tuesday, September 7, 2010

From Munchkin to Marine...I Missed the In-Between

To me, he is a little boy.

Not a man. Definitely not Marine.

Someone please tell me where the last 20 years have gone, because I’d like to know exactly where that kid went.

I have a general idea. Wyatt Carlisle, now 20, is in Afghanistan. The son of dear old friends, he's from my Ohio hometown. He just deployed as a Lance Corporal with the 4th Marine Division, a Reserve unit from Akron. We aren't aware of his specific location, of course, for security reasons. He just tells us it's hot - 115 degrees with few trees.

"At my new home for the rest of my time here," he said in his last Facebook update. "It's a shame there's no grass or shade, lol."

That’s my boy. My funny, easy-going Wyatt. He broke my heart by growing up in the blink of an eye - the way kids will. These days, it’d be pretty difficult to do all the things that I used to...tickle him...hold him...hug him. I think he, his gun - and probably his girlfriend - would have something to say about that.

He was a toddler when I met him. I was young myself, in my early 20s - close to the age he is now. His big brown eyes grabbed me from the get-go.

I liked the way he cuddled with his mom, wrestled with his dad, the way he jumped right in to play with me - a stranger, at first. He made me want a boy of my own.

He felt like my nephew. Not linked by blood. Just love.

Soon after I met him, I got married. Then, quickly, my wishes were fulfilled with my own daughter and son. I didn’t get to see Wyatt as much. He lives three hours from here, and work and family always seemed to get in the way.

And, he was very busy too, growing up, living life, becoming type of man it takes to make a Marine. But I never forgot my brown-eyed little guy.

So all these years later, the news that he was heading over there hit my chest like a Humvee. It brought the war right home - probably a fraction as much as it did for his parents, Jodie and Dan.

Wyatt's story isn't unique. It happens all over the U.S. Every week, families nationwide are still waving goodbye to their loved ones heading overseas. Even as the war in Iraq nears an end, President Obama has dispatched thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan.

This conflict in the Middle East is easy to forget. Its media coverage has dwindled. And, according to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, six in 10 Americans don’t support it.

These United States sure aren't the gung-ho, patriotic, flag-waving ones that my Grandfather fought for in World War II. In a way, I think it’s even braver now, going off to a war like this: You're aware the entire country isn't behind you. Even though you're fighting for all of them.

I support careful, finite U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. I know it's very complicated, and I respect those with dissenting opinions.

But I think September 11 showed us that extremists need to be kept in check. Obviously, some are a threat to our safety and our way of life. And I think we should finish the job we started in Afghanistan.

I admire the men and women willing to stand for something they believe in, who risk their lives for us - whether or not we're in favor of their missions.

Disagree with me? That’s cool. It's called freedom of speech. Some very brave men and women fought for it.

I just hope that, no matter their opinion of the situation in the Middle East, folks remember the troops still over there.

For sure - they're thinking of us.

Wyatt and I, circa 1993. Godspeed, Buddy. Can’t wait to see you again. We're due for a new picture!


  1. Aww, I'm teary eyed. What a wonderful, heartwarming wake-up call for those who forget that our military is made up of EVERYONE's children. Beautifully, poignantly written, my friend. More, more!

  2. Wow! Powerful stuff & brought tears to my eyes. I like a common enough phrase going around: if you don't stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.
    I have had both family & friends over there. It hits home. And politics are 1 thing, but our soldiers are another. Did I support W's ever-changing agenda over there, no, but I do not understand anyone who criticizes our troops. There's no doubt in my mind they are keeping the rest if us safe, that it is due to their presence that we've not been so blatantly attacked again.
    Wonderful tribute to our troops & to your 'nephew.'

  3. Love this post. I will pray for Wyatt's safe return and my family and I so appreciate his service.
    I think people forget how much soldiers and their families sacrifice for us. When we're running to Tarjay, carpool, etc, with our kids in relative safety, we need to be cognizant that others' kids are in harms way--for us. I agree with your post 100%.Regardless of what our politics are, we need to support these brave men and women--now, AND when they return home. Hey, you should post his address if it's ok with him and his family and maybe we can send him stuff?
    p.s. When people complain about "kids today", they should really remember "kids" like Wyatt....just a thought. I'm sure his parents are very proud of him.

  4. Thats my boy! Soooo PROUD of him and all the service persons. They are unselfish, brave and honorable. We all need to support them on their missions. When I went to the deployment briefing, I was really taken back...as I looked around the room I noticed, parents, grandparents, siblings, all the same as me...feeling sad that their loved one was being sent over there...then a second look, husband, wives (some pregnant) and children that would be here! WOW, did that hit hard. Thats when the PROUDER than proud wells up inside of you, and pours over you like gravy! Keep all the service people, their families and friends in your thoughts and prayers. Remember, We are America, Support them, after all we are counting on them for our freedom. Honor them by showing your red, white & blue. I have flags flying 24/7 with spotlights on them. God Speed

  5. What a wonderful tribute!! Peggy

  6. I too remember this little guy!
    My sister was a cheerleader with his mom, and I have known her since I was in pigtails! It has been a very long time since I have seen this family, however, they are wonderful people, love to have a good time!! I will pray for Wyatt's safe return, and for all of the soldier's and their families who are making the sacrifice to make sure American's remain FREE!!!

  7. Dawnzie, you have it in you to do just about any subject. Doing this one was not unlike who you are as a person on the serious side. Nice work .. Brenda

  8. Heidi, they are everyone's children - perfectly said. Kerbi, thanks for your support, and I can't wait to see my 'nephew' again, haha. Muffintop-you're right about the "kids today" thing - we totally need to remember the kids like Wyatt here. Jodie (Wyatt's Mom) you raised a wonderful boy, with another one still at home, and I am proud to call all of you friends. I love your comment "pours over you like gravy" - what a great American analogy! Peggy, just thank you, your words means so much. Brooke, that is so cool you remember Wyatt as a little guy, too! And Brenda, thank you for your support, today, as always, you're the best :)