Memorial Day: A Time for Ballgames, Bratwurst, and Remembering the Fallen
Memorial Day is upon us, and it means something a little different to every American. Some view the holiday as a day to spend a little extra time with family - grilling out, having a hot dog, and perhaps catching a ballgame at the dawn of a new summer. Many Americans plan weekend road trips, utilizing the additional day to garner some much needed rest and relaxation. Of course businesses never fail to grasp the importance of an additional day of consumer shopping, making it difficult to miss the variety of Memorial Day car, furniture, and electronics sales advertised on television and radio.
For anyone who has worn the uniform of a soldier, airman, seaman, or marine, however, Memorial Day means a great deal more. For these current and former servicemen and women and their families, the day serves as a day of remembrance for friends, colleagues, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the preservation of freedom for all Americans.
Like many of you, I have also experienced such a loss. For 2 years, I had the honor of serving with Nick Sayles, a colleague, friend, and a tremendous soldier who served his country with bravery and distinction in Mosul, Iraq from 2004-2005. Along with being great at his role in the military, Nick also happened to be one of the most hilarious individuals and best practical jokers I have had the pleasure of meeting. Often the target of many of his jokes, Nick had a way of making me and everyone else in our squad forget that we were serving in combat.
During a mission in April of 2005, Nick’s Stryker combat vehicle was hit with a massive vehicle born improvised explosive device (car bomb). Upon arriving back at our military base and checking to make sure everyone was alright, Nick came out of his Stryker looking like he had been through hell. Everyone asked him if he was OK - he looked at us, took a look at his now dilapidated Stryker and said the famous Joe Dirt line “It’ll buff out.” We all went from concern to laughter instantly. Anyone who has served in combat knows how important people like Nick are to the morale of the overall mission, especially when the struggles of combat become too much to bear.
On the early morning of May 28, 2005, while I was still sleeping after a late night mission, Nick was out working with his new platoon conducting his own mission. I was roused abruptly that morning, and informed there was an explosion in western Mosul. When my platoon arrived at the scene of the incident, we were informed that Nick was killed in action while performing a random search of a suspected enemy combative.
Upon hearing the news I was beside myself. I was so upset I couldn’t even breathe. I begged the military hospital staff to let me see him, and was told that it would be best to remember him the way he was. For the rest of my time in Iraq, I was never the same. My sense of humor was gone. The only emotions remaining were sadness, frustration, and confusion, wondering why somebody so great was taken so young.
May 28th of this year, just three days after Memorial Day, will mark the 10 year anniversary of Nick Sayles’ death. Like many of you, I often wonder why I’ve been given more time on this earth and why so many great military service members like Nick were taken too soon. It is important to remember, however, that the legacy of the fallen lives on through the sacrifices each of these young men and women made for us and for our freedom. So, on this Memorial Day enjoy your barbeques, ballgames, and your three-day road trips, but also set aside some time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Cheers to you, Nick.
Military and Veteran Career Coach
CTU Career Services
Dale Prickett is an Iraq War Combat Infantry Veteran who currently works as a Military and Veteran Career Coach with CTU, and as an Adjunct Professor in the Homeland Security Field. He has worked for over 6 years in the veteran employment field, and holds a Master of Science in Threat and Response Management from the University of Chicago and a Master of Business Administration from North Park University.