As members of the National Guard from Brazil prepare to serve in Iraq, one of Brazil's own, Monte Porter, is already there. For security reasons, we will not reveal too much about his specific job or location.
Monte is also a Guardsman. He was born in Brazil but now lives in North Carolina. He is keeping a journal and has consented to share his e-mails to his family with our readers.
His father is Randy Porter of Brazil. If you would like to contact Monte, please call Randy Porter, 448-8758.
By MONTE PORTER
For The Times
Benjamin J. Slaven, age 22. Have you ever heard the name?
Me neither. I learned his name June 14, 2006, here at Base Camp Adder, Iraq.
Specialist Slaven was a member of the 308th Transportation Company, an Army Reserve unit from Nebraska.
Ben Slaven lost his life to an improvised explosive device detonated on June 9, 2006, while conducting a combat logistic patrol escorting water, food and fuel supplies in support of coalition forces.
According to his brothers-in-arms, he was a little brother that everyone loved having around. He could have easily been our brother, cousin or neighbor. His friends called him Superman; not because he felt he was invincible, but because of a small tattoo on his shoulder. A young man known for striving to be the best at all he did, he was admired by everyone in his unit. He was known for his propensity to go out of his way to help others and to bring a smile to the face of another, no matter the situation.
During the eulogy, a friend noted that he liked to sneak around the living area meowing like a cat. The nutty actions of Ben Slaven still made people smile, even at the end of his life.
Back home in Nebraska, Ben Slaven worked with mentally disabled people in a developmental center. His primary goal in life was to find the love of his life and settle down with a small family. Not unlike the hopes and dreams of many young Americans today.
Instead of going home with more life experience and perhaps the love of his life he dreamed of, Ben went home in a casket.
The story of Benjamin Slaven has affected many souls here at Base Camp Adder. During the memorial service, the life of Ben Slaven affected my life. Never before has a service touched me as deep as this one did. I can't seem to explain it, but the events of June 14, 2006, made me reflect on my 20 years of service and 39 years of life. I've seen and done many things, never really thinking about the ultimate price we are asked to pay.
I will tell you that I was not the only soldier affected by the service. A soldier most of us never knew brought all of us to tears multiple times. The story told by his battle buddy could easily have been the story of any one of us. No matter how different each one of us are, we are bound by the common cause of spreading freedom to the world. Yes, it is a cliche, but it is so true. We believe wholeheartedly in what we do. We love the freedoms so evident in the United States that we are willing to pay the price for others to share in that wonderful part of our lives. We take so much for granted in our daily lives that most of us can not even fathom the oppression in the world. We still have much to learn about life outside our little comfort zone.
There were several key points to the service that I'd like to point out.
First, the memorial box itself. A single weapon, muzzle down with bayonet attached, a single helmet perched on the butt stock and a pair of boots at the base. A picture of our fallen comrade in arms leaned against the weapon. The memorial box was shadowed by the American Flag and the Army Flag crossed with the unit guidon placed between the two.
The second key part of the service was the final roll call by the Company First Sergeant. He called the names of Slaven's squad. Johnson, Overby, Slaven. He called Slaven's name 3 times. Slaven... Benjamin Slaven... Specialist Benjamin James Slaven. Silence. My hair stood on end. Chill bumps. More silence. In the distance I heard "Port, Arms!" "Ready, Aim, Fire!" BAM "Ready, Aim, Fire!" BAM "Ready, Aim, Fire!" BAM Silence. The bugler began to play taps. Tears leaked from our eyes.
The service concluded with everyone moving to the memorial box, first as command teams, then as individuals. Each soldier stopped in front of the memorial, executed a right face and saluted. A solemn final act of respect paid to our brother.
I've experienced many funerals with military honors in my life, even participated as a part of a burial team. I have never been moved like I was in this service. Chill bumps, hair standing on end and tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. No amount of self-control could overcome the emotions of the day.
I will never forget the events of June 14, 2006, and I hope I never have to experience another memorial service while I am here in Iraq. Ours is a dangerous job, but we are well-prepared and well- equipped to do our jobs. We can only be diligent in our daily duties and execute our mission with professionalism beyond reproach. We are American Soldiers proudly protecting our way of life, eagerly giving what we have so that others may experience the true joy of freedom and all it has to offer.
The Soldier's Creed
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my Warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.