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Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Blues

I'm surprised every time it hits me.

One year, it was in the middle of church during a Sunday School lesson. At another time, it was in the middle of the day when I was alone in a hotel room flipping channels. This year, it was as I lay hovering between wake and sleep last night.

I suddenly started crying, loud and wet. And I was confused as to why I was doing so in the first place. Only a few seconds later did the answer come. It hit me that it was Memorial Day weekend, the anniversary of the death of an old friend and rival.

Capt. Daniel William Eggers died supporting Operation Enduring Freedom on May 29, 2004 in Kandahar, Afghanistan when his vehicle hit a land mine. Killed with him were Sgt 1st Class Sgt. Robert J. Mogensen and Pfc Joseph A. Jeffries.

I've known Dan since 8th grade and got to know him best when we both enrolled in our high school's Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (Army JROTC). We were competitive in JROTC, sometimes friendly, sometimes not.

Through the years, we rose through the cadet ranks equally, and senior year, Dan became Battalion Commander (BN CO) and I Battalion Executive Officer (BN XO). Or in other words, Dan was first in command and I was second. Did that bug me? Heck yeah! But not as much as if I had been second in command to anyone else. Even as a teenager, I recognized Dan as a great leader full of grace and duty.

Dan was also a great teaser. He knew just how to push my buttons to get a reaction out of me. I'd fume and scowl at times until he just couldn't help but laugh. And I knew I'd been had. Again.

I learned of his death on Monday, May 31, 2004, the day of the US Department of Defense News Release, two days after Dan had passed. What a day of disbelief! I searched everywhere for information to verify this news because the DoD just wasn't "good enough." I searched for reports with photos just to make sure there weren't TWO Daniel William Eggers, age 28 from Cape Coral, Florida. I contacted mutual friends searching for the one that would say "oh, it's not true, just a rumor." My search only proved the rumor true.

As long as I've known Dan, he has always been determined to serve in the Army as an elite member. If it was worth doing, it was worth doing to the top. He risked his life doing what he loved and what he always felt was his mission: to serve God and Country.

His life and his death fuel my desire to live a rich and fulfilling life.

Still, it takes courage to say goodbye. Every time.

2 Timothy 4:7

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

(scripture on Dan's headstone)

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