Remember when you were nineteen years old? All of us were at a different place. Some of us, maybe, were in the party phase, drinking with friends and staying up all night. Some of us were already working hard in a blue-collar job, trying to make it on our own for the first time. Some of us were studying for college exams and deciding what we wanted to be when we grew up. I started early…at nineteen I was already engaged, working at a college degree that I would never get, looking for the next step in my life. Wherever you were, chances are that at nineteen, you were learning huge lessons, full of hope and dreams and a few disillusions about what life is about. You were young and confident and scared and excited about the many years you had ahead of you to make something happen. To live your life. To build your dreams.
Think about it. Nineteen. Where were you? What were you doing? Just think about it for a second.
A few days ago, we received word that the remains of Private Byron Fouty, an Army soldier from here in Michigan who had been missing in Iraq since March 12, 2007, were found. Maybe you heard about it on the news. But then again, maybe you didn’t. It was barely mentioned on some local channels. One little blurb about a hero found and they were on to news of the latest Hollywood marriage. It seems so strange. Here was this soldier…this kid…out doing his job one day, wearing his camouflage and boots, talking to his buddies, fighting for his country, carrying a gun and wearing body armour in the dirty streets of Iraq, and he was never heard from again. Gone. Lost. Missing. He was nineteen. Nineteen!
We have gotten to know some of Byron’s family since this horrible event occurred fourteen months ago, and have prayed and worried and wondered alongside them. My husband Sarge is involved with them in an official military capacity and has had the chance to learn about this young soldier, to see pictures and hear stories about his childhood and to meet all the friends and family that he left behind. At some point soon, we will go to a memorial or a funeral and hear even more about Byron…who he was and what his family will miss about him and why they are so proud.
And I will cry. I will cry for the parents who will never see their son fulfill his dreams. I will cry for the nephew who will never meet his uncle. I will cry for the friends who will never hang out with him again, laughing and making memories. I will cry for all the people who never got to tell Byron how much he meant to them. But most of all, I will cry for that nineteen year old who was full of hope and dreams and big things to come. I will cry for the nineteen year old who had the courage to fight in a war that most people don’t support, and who gave his life so that they can hold that opinion openly. I will cry for a life cut short. I will cry for the man that will never be.
He may have been only nineteen, but he did more with his life than many of us ever will. Thank you, Byron.