Valuing a Human Life While Sitting in Traffic
USMC LCpl Raul Bravo
An everyday car trip becomes emotional in traffic
I've always made it a game, of sorts, to figure out what the personal license plates mean with their cryptic and often baffling messages. Sometimes I think about those letters on that rectangular piece of metal for hours after driving behind them, finally giving up because I just can't figure out what the secret messages represent.
Today, however, I had a different experience while driving behind a silver SUV with an unusal license plate. It was a Nevada car with a star and the letters "FV" and four numbers. I'd never seen this plate before, so I paid a little more attention than I otherwise might have. As I glanced up, still exhausted from my lack of sleep as I drove my daughter to school, I saw a long message in decal-form on the rear window. All I could really make out were the words "Raul Bravo," and the rest was just too small for my aging eyes. To the left of the decal I saw another sticker, reading "Half of my heart is still in Iraq." I asked my daughter to read me what she could see of the sticker with Raul's name, and she said, "Lived in War, Resting in peace."
I have to admit, I followed the SUV a little closer than I should have to read the various messages on the back of the car. There was a USMC sticker on the back, and as my husband served in the Marines, I seemed to pay even more attention to the car than I would have. "Are those dogtags hanging from the rear-view mirror?, " I wondered to myself.
At the next red light I grabbed my smartphone and started searching on the web for the name "Raul Bravo." Who was he? What happened to him? Then, I found out.
Raul Bravo was a local Nevada kid. He had graduated high school and joined the Marines soon after. He had served a tour of Iraq and was there for his second tour when the Hummer he was in, drove over a roadside bomb, killing Raul and injuring three others. Raul Bravo was all of 21 on that day in March, 2007. I didn't know him, I don't even remember hearing about his death on the news. I guess I probably shrugged it off like every other death reported by the media every day.
Yet, here I was, behind this boy's mother in traffic. All I could think about was how horrible her life must be knowing her son died in Iraq. I've heard countless stories from my husband about his friends who were killed in Vietnam, and just this week, his friend and former police officer, Stan Cooper, was buried after being shot and killed in the Federal Courthouse here in Las Vegas, where he worked as a guard with the Federal Marshals. I know people die. I know wars kill young men and women. Somehow, it is different to pull up behind a car knowing inside is a mother filled with grief as the 3rd anniversary of her son's death creeps up. Raul was a brother, a friend, a grandson. Raul Bravo was a soldier, a man, and someone's child.
I wish I could have let this woman know that some 21 hours after reading the message on her back window, someone does care. You don't know me, and we will likely never be near each other in traffic again, but if you are reading this, please know that this mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and Marine's wife wanted to honor your son with this story. He deserves so much more for his sacrifice than a decal I came across in traffic, but I assure you, I will never forget his name.