By Eric Beasley
I was invited to attend a small ceremony today. This wasn’t for an award, it wasn’t for an essay, and it wasn’t for volunteer efforts. The ceremony presented a unique dichotomy for me. On one hand, I was there to honor a fallen brother. On the other hand, I was there to celebrate his life.
Even as I try to write this, I feel myself shifting between tears and smiles. I know that no matter how much time I sit here, trying to write the perfect reporting on the story, that I will never do it justice. Nothing I can write will express the emotion and brotherhood that I felt there in person. Nothing I can say will ever do this whole story justice.
In 2015, Delegate Bill Folden wrote the Hero’s Highway Act, which would allow for the naming of Department of Transportation infrastructure in remembrance of our fallen service members and first responders.
Today, Delegate Folden dedicated the first of these structures.
Delegate Folden told the story about his inspiration for the bill. A road trip where his son asked him about the names adorning signs along the highway, and liberal use of an iPad to find out who they were and what they did. A door that he knocked while campaigning that belonged to a Gold Star family. And the story of a young Marine who made the ultimate sacrifice.
It wasn’t the story that kept my focus. It was the emotion. Folden got choked up a few times, having to pause and regain his composure to keep telling the story. As I watched, tears in my own eyes kept coming out, especially remembering SGT David Smith, USMC.
A few colleagues of Delegate Folden were also on hand for the ceremony. I didn’t catch all their names, but the man who stood out was C. T. Wilson, Delegate from Charles County.
A veteran, like Folden and myself, Wilson said a few words about the bill and about his own experiences in the military. He said something that hit me like a ton of bricks, recounting his own experiences losing soldiers under his command. It wasn’t the words, it was the emotions that came up. It was not staged, it was not political, it was not calculated. It was sincere. I could see in his eyes exactly what he was remembering, that moment that he had to tell a family that their son was no longer of this Earth. I saw a man who maintained his military composure for the sake of the family, yet allowed himself to feel the emotions of loss in private. Not out of denial, but because he had to set that example of leadership.
Rest in Peace, SGT David Smith. I never knew you, but I will never forget you. Until Valhalla.