When Tommy Came Marching Home Again
By Jack Kinsella
While visiting in Texas back in 2003, I received an email from my friend, Captain John Kurek, USMC (ret) that said approximately the following: “S/Sgt Tommy Kurek, USMC arrives 8 Oct 1200 hrs. Hooyah party at ‘Our Place’ 8 Oct 1700 hrs. You WILL be there.”
Tommy has spent the last year in Iraq and Captain John spent an eternity at home waiting for the moment when he could send that email.
I speak Marine. I knew that Captain John did NOT forget to put a question mark after the last sentence, as in, ‘You WILL be there?’ And when Tommy came marching home, Gayle and I were there as ordered.
As most of you know, I was born in Canada. I grew up within sight of the US border, and as soon as I was old enough, I crossed it and enlisted in the US Marines. As much as I love the United States of America, I love the country of my birth as well. This was my father’s country, he gave it to me when I was born, and for much of my adult life, I was proud to be Canadian.
Canadians were loyal to their friends, and when a Canadian saw one in trouble, he was the first one to show up at the door to help. Canada entered World War I at the moment Great Britain did and three years before America joined the battle.
In September, 1939, when Great Britain declared war on Germany, so did Canada. My father fought in every major battle from the disastrous raid on Dieppe in 1940 to the liberation of Dachau in the spring of 1945, fighting in France, North Africa, Italy, Holland and Germany. That generation of Canadians understood the concepts of loyalty and friendship. And freedom.
Right now — at this moment — our young men and women stand between us and an enemy sworn to our national destruction. They stand in the breech, protecting us from those who consider it their highest duty to kill as many of us as possible — no holds barred.
Our enemy would cheerfully kill himself if it meant he could kill you in the process. Indeed, in one foiled attack, a young couple intended to blow an airliner out of the sky, with themselves aboard.
To avoid close scrutiny, they brought with them their young baby, who would also have died in the attack.
NO sacrifice is too great for them, if it means killing you in the process.
You and your family. If they are willing to kill their own children, they certainly would have no compunction about killing yours.
Many of the young Marine veterans of the Iraq war with whom I am personally acquainted have told me that they save their last bullet for themselves, rather than risk being taken prisoner.
Each of our young men who have fallen into enemy hands so far have turned up dead. Each was hideously tortured before dying. Some of al-Qaeda’s methods have turned up in a ‘torture handbook’ captured last month in Iraq.
Tommy’s ‘hooyah’ party would have been a lesson to the world about Americans and who they are. Captain John lives in Atlantic Beach, NC, where most everybody has known Tommy since he was a kid.
Atlantic Beach is a tourist town situated on a little island just off the North Carolina coast near Morehead City. The island’s total population of about 6,000 swells to 36,000 from May to September, but from Labor Day to Memorial Day, the ‘Beach’ as it’s known locally, has a population of about 600.
In the center of town is the local meeting place and watering hole, appropriately named “Our Place”. Although ‘Our Place’ is a bar every other day of the week, when Tommy came marching home, it reminded me more of a church social. Everybody in town brought a covered dish or a dessert.
We saw Tommy pull into the parking lot, and perhaps 100 well-wishers scrambled to find a place to hide in a room that barely holds fifty, so we could yell ‘surprise’.
It was a wonderful moment. Old veterans saluted our newest hero. We thanked him for wearing a chem suit in 130-degree weather to ensure that we and our families wouldn’t one day have to wear chem suits here at home.
Not one person asked Tommy the question all veterans dread, “Did you kill anybody?” Nobody talked about the war. That was up to Tommy, if he wanted to. Tommy was home, and Tommy did his duty. That was all anybody needed to know.
After a while, Tommy climbed up on a table and gave a short speech. That was when he talked about the war. All he said was this: “When you’ve seen what I have seen, you know what is important. Your family. Your friends. Your country.”
I wished my countrymen could have been there to see what I saw. When Tommy came marching home again, I was privileged to share anew in the America Tommy fought for. And I wept in gratitude to find it still exists.
Reading the mainstream press, I confess I wasn’t quite sure anymore. You don’t hear about guys like Tommy from Peter Jennings. Or about the towns they come from.
To Tommy, and to your colleagues, some of whom remain in harm’s way to this moment, I’d like to offer my thanks.
Welcome home, Tommy! Semper Fi.
And God bless America.
Note: Jack originally wrote this Letter October 10, 2003. The Omega Letter would like to extend our deepest appreciation to those who have served and to those who are still serving. Happy Birthday Marine Corps.