In 2004 and 2005 that changed a little for me. Oh, it’s still a day to have a Bar-b-q and all that other stuff, but I remember two really good guys who died in Iraq and now I look at Memorial Day a little different.
I try not to get sad and depressed, and I try to think about the things I liked about these two guys…but I do think about them. And I think that they are two of the best soldiers I ever knew. I both cases, they did not have to go to Iraq . One came out of retirement to go (Mike) and the other switched his MOS (Army job) to go.
Both left families behind…and I wish I could tell them how much I thought of their husbands and dads.
In the 1990’s I was in an Army National Guard combat engineer company in my home town. On one of the State Active Duty missions to a flood, I worked with a Sergeant First Class Named Mike Ottline. He was a really good guy who took care of his troops.
When I was getting ready to deploy to Iraq in November 2004, when I read Mike had been killed.
In early 2005, as some of our teams in Baghdad were re-assigned, I met a young sergeant named Roberto. As we had a few conversations, it turned out that he and I had a few interest in common. I liked him a lot.
I late May 2005, my team and I were sent out on a mission outside of Baghdad. I remember trying to call back to base for a few days and not being able to get through. Then I got an e-mail from somebody back home asking if I knew who had been killed and wounded. (this is not the best way to find your friends have been killed or wounded).
I was finally able to get through on the phone and found out Roberto had been killed and the “gunner” on the Humvee (another friend of mine) was badly wounded. Roberto's team leader was pulled off the misson that day, so when they asked Roberto to take the team out anyway, he did. "Put me in Coach."
This information sucked. I can ‘t even describe how I felt. It sucked.
They Honored Roberto by putting his name on the Range
Army Sgt. Roberto Arizola, Jr.
31, of Laredo , Texas .
Arizola died in Baghdad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV. He was assigned to the 297th Military Intelligence Battalion, 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, Fort Gordon , Georgia . Died on June 8, 2005.
Army Staff Sgt. Michael C. Ottolini
45, of Sebastopol , California .
Ottolini died in Balad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his up-armored HMMWV. He was assigned to the Army National Guard's 579th Engineer Battalion, Petaluma , California . Died on November 10, 2004.
So this Memorial Day, when you’re enjoying that cold beer, glass of wine or non-alcoholic beverage, please toast Mike and Roberto…and any other SIH (Soldiers In Heaven) you know.