Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meltdown on the Interstate

Bee Balm Gal usually writes about weighty matters such as herbaceous borders and dining out in Saratoga Springs. Not so much today.

My husband writes a blog, Planet Albany, which deals mostly with New York State government and politics. In this capacity, he receives press releases from the governor's office, among others.
So it was that this morning he shared with me (perhaps unwisely) this emailed press release:


Governor David A. Paterson has directed that flags on New York State government buildings be flown at half-staff on Friday, August 14, 2009, in honor of a Fort Drum soldier who died on August 7th in Wardak Province, Afghanistan.

Sergeant Jerry Evans of Eufaula, Alabama was killed when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum.

“All New Yorkers mourn the death of this soldier who died defending our country with honor and dignity,” said Governor Paterson. “We express our sympathy to the family, friends and fellow soldiers of Sgt. Evans. Although he was not from New York, we consider him and each of the 10th Mountain division Soldiers to be one of our own.”

Governor Paterson has directed the flags on all State buildings to be lowered to half-staff in tribute to the State’s service members who are killed in action.

I should say up front: I did not know Sergeant Jerry Evans, and I am not criticizing the governor.

My Capital Region Blue Star Mothers group has "adopted" some soldiers in the 10th Mountain division from Fort Drum, but as far as I know, Sergeant Evans was not among them. But because we have connected with other Fort Drum soldiers, this hit me.

Later this morning, Bob and I set off for a planned visit with his cousin and her husband who are vacationing in the Adirondacks. Somewhere near Schroon Lake on Interstate 87 (hereabouts called the Northway) we pulled into a rest area. As I was getting out of the car, I spied the NYS and US flags flying at half-staff and choked up. All I could think was: Bob and I may be the only people who will see these flags today who will know the name of the soldier they are honoring.

Then came the meltdown. I started to cry and said something like: A young man has lost his life serving his country. A family has lost a son. And he gets an anonymous half-staff flag at a Northway rest stop.

I know there will be more than that for Sergeant Evans, but I was emotional.

Today I learned that a fellow BSM* has been asking an Albany newspaper, the Times Union, to publish the names of soldiers who are being honored when flags are lowered. But so far, she has not been able to convince them to do so.

She writes: A person might drive by a state building or school, notice the flag has been lowered, and not know why. I think it's very important to let people know why.

I agree with her.
So for any reader who has made it this far, let me tell you what the Fort Drum website has to say about Sergeant Evans:

Sgt. Evans joined the Army in June 2005 and came to Fort Drum in December 2005. He is survived by his wife and parents.

Sgt. Evans awards and decorations include two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal w/distinguishing device for Valor, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Sergeant Jerry Evans was 23 when he died.

Rest in peace, Sergeant Jerry Evans. My heart goes out to your wife and parents. I wish they could know that there are people in upstate New York today who know your name, who honor your service, and who mourn your loss.

*BSM = Blue Star Mother