MASON COUNTY —Memorial Day is more than cookouts and a day off from work, for some.
During his two tours in the Middle East, Jeff Edelman received the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Award and other medals and awards totaling 15 in all.
Edelman was born in South Charleston and is currently practicing pediatric psychiatry in Arizona. His parents live in Mason County. Jeff recently wrote down his thoughts about service, not to spotlight himself but to make people aware of those he served with and those who continue to serve, particularly over the recent Memorial Day Weekend. See his thoughts below:
I wanted to take a few minutes and ask that each of you take some time this Memorial Day and truly remember the sacrifice of those who have given their lives for our freedom. As most of you know, I am a veteran and spent a year in Iraq and a year in Afghanistan. So, I would like to tell you a story. Actually, it is one story that is about many people. First, a little background on what I did while deployed. This will help you understand where my experience and information comes from.
My team and I were responsible for the mental health of all military personnel in our assigned area. This included everything from shaking hands and informing service members about the services and support we provided through counseling and medication if needed. Much of the travel in both Iraq and Afghanistan was by ground on convoys. This is of course the most dangerous way to travel. I personally provided and/or was involved in the provision of medical care to service members. Most of this care was trauma related and during combat situations or shortly after. I was part of the medical trauma teams at several sites that I covered. One of the more difficult responsibilities my team had is “Traumatic Event Management” (taking care of surviving service members after catastrophic events) and attending memorial services. Let me provide you some statistics and then I will get to the real reason for this email. During my deployments- combined I conducted over 50 Traumatic Event Management groups (over 11 of these were for suicides), attended over 25 memorial services in the field where the service members worked and were killed, and was involved in over 11 mass casualty events as well as 9 pediatric traumas, and multiple events where I was on the road or on a base and worked with the unit medic to provide care after an attack. This information will hopefully help you have a deeper understanding of my story and personalize it somewhat.
I am traveling from place to place. Talking, supporting, laughing, hanging out, sometimes fighting, sometimes grieving. I am with men and women, some barely more than children, they are protecting me, taking me places so I can support them, me thinking all the while, “how I can help them” when really, as I look back, they helped me, kept me safe, protected me, saved me, made me laugh, made me feel like part of “the crew,” allowed me into their lives enough that when something went wrong I could be there to provide for them what they provided for me. These men and women are brave, kind, motivated, doing their best to make it through the day alive and intact emotionally. They have wives, mothers, fathers, children, brothers and sisters. They have each other. They are dirty, they smell sometimes (well at times I did as well), they use the bathroom in holes or makeshift “Porta Johns” or “Porta Johns” that have not been emptied in-well- who knows how long, they eat cold food, they are tired, they sit around, they fight, they cry, they get lonely, they get sad, they get mad, and they die. They are you, me, our brother, our sister, husband or wife, our child. They have come to this place for many reasons: A lot of them to support their families, most having a desire to do something worthwhile, most to fight for this country and those who live in it and dream to move here.
For some it is a family tradition and for some they are just trying to find their way. They travel roads that have bombs buried in them and walk trails and cover ground that may take their lives at any moment. They are my “charges’ and I have loved them for many reasons. But most of all, I have loved them just for who they are, just for being willing to do the job that is the toughest and most dangerous job in the world - protecting you and me. When they die there is a grief and sadness that is indescribable. You can feel it in the air. But you can also feel the pride their brothers and sisters have for them and the work they have done. The honor with which they are sent home so their families can say a final goodbye, the profound love and respect that is given them for the sacrifice made that day. Even more amazing, is those who are left continue to work, fight, laugh, cry, support, and do everything they can to protect each other. They finish the job - they continue to protect you and me. They continue to stand for something that transcends all things. They stand for freedom, justice, mercy, and the right to love whoever we choose, a chance to be whoever or whatever we choose, to have a fighting chance to thrive. If not for them we would not be free, we would not have a choice, we would not be many. Living or not they all deserve to be loved for that alone.
As I sit here and think of all those I have known who have given their lives in the service of this country, I am saddened, I remember all the times I cried and my heart was broken, yet I cannot help but feel a sense of great pride and honor to have known and served with them. I ask over the next few days that you remember them for me and with me. I ask you to remember, it matters not what politics you believe in, what religion you serve, what your job is, nor what race you are. I ask you to remember that when these men and women gave their lives they gave it for each other, their families and for you. It will be a great honor to have my colleagues give remembrance and thoughts to those I served and to remember with me how precious the life we have really is and it is because of those I have written about.
God bless each of you and God bless this country and those who have fought and died for it.