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Remembering a Soldier
I am writing this on September 11, 2012 and that is fitting. Because this is to honor a soldier who died fighting the war on terror.
In 2007, Army Sgt. Jan Argonish, a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, was killed during an ambush in Afghanistan. He was just twenty-six years old. He left behind a son and a fiance, family and friends.
For the past five years, Sgt. Jan's fiance has organized a motorcycle ride in his memory, with proceeds going to help veterans. This year my husband and I participated in the ride.
I did not know Jan, but he was from my area. To think about a soldier, any soldier, serving in war time evokes powerful feelings. To think of a soldier being wounded or killed is overwhelming indeed. The impact of it all was never so real to me, though, as it was this past Sunday when I participated in the Fifth Annual Sgt. Jan Argonish Ride.
The Sgt. Jan Argonish Ride
As my husband and I made our way to the start of the ride, along with a few friends and over five hundred other riders, I was overcome with emotion. I watched the Humvees move first. And then trucks draped with huge American flags. I heard the rumble of the bikes and took in the amazing scene. I then thought one thought: he is not here to see this. Sgt. Jan is not here to enjoy this beautiful day. He is not here with his fiance, or his son. Or his mom. Or his friends. He is not here to see all of these people, most of whom he never knew, gather together in his honor. He is not here, because he gave his life, fighting for all of us. Fighting for our freedom.
I fought back tears as we joined the line of bikes and from that moment on I appreciated every single second of that beautiful ride. I appreciated the winding, quiet back roads of Pennsylvania. The peaceful farm fields, and fresh bales of hay. The several "small-town" communities we passed through--each with local police and volunteer fire company support, blocking the intersections so that we may safely ride through. I appreciated the many community members who came out to support and wave and clap. Or give a "thumbs-up." The soldiers, one with a prosthetic leg, saluting. All the small children, standing, or in their parents' arms, waving little American flags. The young cheerleaders and the junior football team, cheering us on. The firetrucks with their ladders crossed over the road, American flags poised for us to pass beneath them. The mural all about Sgt. Jan.
It was overwhelming to think of why we were all gathered on that day, over a span of fifty miles and through many towns. We were there because Sgt. Jan wasn't. We were there to say that we honored his sacrifice and we will never forget. We were there to honor his fiance and his son and his family and his friends, too, because they must go on without him. We were there to remember this soldier, and all soldiers, who risk the ultimate sacrifice.
After the ride, we all gathered for food and entertainment, provided by the benefit. We were treated to delicious pizza, sausage, pulled pork, burgers, salads and beans. There were also many desserts, including, we heard, cookies made by Jan's mom. All day, there was great music from several local bands.
I was taken aback by the many volunteers and the level of donations; proceeds from the ride each year go to help local veterans and veterans' groups. Jan's fiance made an announcement that one local veteran would have his utilities paid. What amazing strength his fiance has, I thought, He would be so proud.
My husband and I saw some soldiers from Sgt. Jan's unit, and spoke with one, who announced she was being deployed, again, in four days. I thanked her for her service, and said I would pray for her. "I don't know how you do it," I said to her. "It's my job," she said back. Thank God there are people like her, and like Sgt. Jan, who are willing to serve this job.
During the entire experience --- the ride, the community support and the gathering afterward --- I kept thinking, "this is what America is all about." At once I felt so sorry that Sgt. Jan couldn't be there to share in it all, and so very grateful to him for his sacrifice so that I could be.
And just then, after some rain, an amazing double rainbow appeared. I took in the beauty and spoke silently to the sky:
Sgt. Jan Argonish, I did not know you. But I thank you. I honor you. And I will not forget your sacrifice.