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A Million Brave Wingmen Tears


Woke up to a different sort of Memorial Day than I’d ever experienced. I woke up and wept.

In front of millions. Well, potentially millions, on my new pretend ocean aerie perch, mesmerized by the skyline ridge-hoppin’, ripplin’ & rockin’ half-masted flag. 

Standing alone and unafraid, just the two of us overachieving, just the earliest risers in the grey-misted, persistent Seattle sea winds, but just my brave tears came openly. Flag pole was playing it cool, for the moment. 

First on-deck were tears of guilt, the survivor’s kind, that I dismissed with a knowing nod and a smile, because I’ve kicked the ol’ rusty can down that sad road to nowhere before.

Second tears of memory came with a deep-bellied Santa laugh, because of my good buddy Puj; the very best pure-hearted, naturally heroic, boundless-positivity wingman a guy could ever ask for. 

A 100 % fully trained, officially Gold-Winged, United States Marine Corps fighter pilot, my buddy Puj would have known what to do, if only he was here. He would have immediately smiled broadly and patted me on the shoulder: 

“…so THIS is what’s gotten everyone so bent outta shape? All good PIRP, we will just adapt and overcome, just like we always do. Semper Gumby, always flexible, Dave! Piece. O’. Cake!”

Third came tears of understanding. Of acceptance. Tears of gratitude? Explain this, wtf. 

Because the front lines of this particular war, as Rage Against the Machine loves to snarl at its determined moshers, are now everywhere. 

Luckily for us, our nation’s tumultuous history is blessedly resplendent with the finest servant leaders you could ever imagine; people who somehow manage to focus externally on helping others, even when the bleakness itself is feeling kinda blue about stuff. 

But even better for us, this new crop of heroes we need to serve us once again are everywhere, raised by the beautiful communities that flourish quietly all across our country. Golden-hearted compassionate, raw-mountain strong, fast and flexibly innovative, they only lay dormant, not knowing they are needed, until we call out to them.

So I let out a deep breath, the tight-collar-choker one that had been worried: would this dreadful Era of the Corona showcase the very best of our teeter-tottering indomitable human spirit? 

While you’re thinking about that unnecessarily tangled thought-twister, we can bet ahead of time that it’ll surely spotlight the worst among us too. This is why we need our leaders to teach, and our teachers to lead.

So here is my call-out, the big throw of the switch on the Bat-signal, the all-hands-on-deck plea to our wonderful outliers, our tentative outsiders, our entire hidden gift uncanny X-Men crew watching from the sidelines. And to all the perfect people too, all the winners-at-life, all the bigger-than-you big-shots, we truly need the wisdom and the power of the crowd. Of every one. 

If you’re strong right now, you MUST lend your strength. We all need you. 

If you’re a leader, you MUST lead. We need your steady hand. 

If you’ve got anything good still left inside of you, and I’m confident you’ve got plenty, it’s never too late. We need what you’ve got. 

Ready? It is your time, to show us whatcha got. 

But in the meantime, just for today, let us please remember the very best of those who have come before us; and I would love to imagine the very best of them would be encouraging us to press onward, with strength, humor, compassion, teamwork, and respect. 

And of course, good ol’ fashioned ingenuity. We got this. 

So, piece O’ Cake, to all my new wingmen out there reading this, we got this, just like my brother Puj taught me. 

And love and respect forever, to all my countless fallen wingmen, who are all just like Puj.

We got this, because of what we’ve learned from you, because of what we’ve decided to become, because of you. In your memory, on this day, every year, we thank you for leading the way.

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