Fratres Aeterni, Brothers Forever
We combat vets work out the demons of our combat experiences in many ways. Because we are all unique, and we are all affected by our experiences out of that uniqueness, we have to find ways to heal out of that uniqueness too.
This Marine, who served in Afghanistan with the 1st Bn, 3rd Marines, who affectionately call themselves the “Lava Dogs” because of their home base in Hawaii, has turned to running to find the tranquility and the healing place for his memories of lost brothers. He participated in the 2019 Boston Marathon in honor of three of those brothers who fell while on deployment in Afghanistan.
In the video you will see that by the end of that physically and mentally demanding 26 miles plus race, he was out of gas. He was on his hands and knees, but with determination and the Marine will to never give up, to fight on even when it seems impossible, he crawled the last yards to the finish line. He had a mission, a goal, that only he could finish and accomplish.
He did it.
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When you hear combat veterans talking about the brothers and sisters they lost, pay attention and learn. Those fallen heroes that they cannot forget are more than brothers or sisters to them. Like all combat veterans, they have a history with their brothers and sisters-in-arms. It is a history that unfolded in an environment charged daily with the threat of death or serious injury.
They become more than friends. They become a single identity charged with defending people they don’t even know from those who wish them harm. This means that they, one and all, as a unit, must place themselves between the innocent and those who want to do them harm.
This is possible because the power of one, the strength of the unit, that defies the instinct of self-survival, indeed, it transcends it with a desire to do what is necessary to keep each other safe. It forms into a unified effort to take away, to end the threat of violence that others attempt to impose on the weak, or the defenseless.
In the end, it comes down to that alone. We fight for the warrior at our sides, because in the crucible of war, we have become united to one another in ways that are beyond explaining.
When we lose one of our brothers or sisters to the violence of war, it is like losing a part of one’s self. Something in us, from that time on, is missing yet there. The empty space is occupied by a ghost, a memory that remains. Over time most of us learn to live with these memories.
This Marine chose to carry his fallen brothers with him, to dedicate his Boston Marathon to them. This is what drove him to not give up, to crawl if he must, to bring them across the line, to finish the mission with them this time.
The Veterans Site honors what this Marine did this weekend in the Boston Marathon. He has a name, but I have chosen to write about him as a representative of all of our military veterans and active duty personnel who know what it means to lose a brother or sister in combat.
We are truly, Fratres Aetreni, a brotherhood forever.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.