Assumption of Command

30 April 2005

SPC Gavin J. Colburn, a view from an outsider.

I have been having a very long debate with myself about making this post. A big part of me doesn't like to discuss things like this. I am a light hearted guy that likes to talk about fun and silly things most of the time. I also don't like to make my family worry any more than they already do. (Sorry mom) But that is being overridden by a need to relate this experience. So bear with me, as this is not my forte, but I think is the right thing to do.

(I also want to make sure everyone knows that I waited until I knew for certain that US Army officially released SPC Colburn's name before I posted, in an effort to protect the privacy of the family.)

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Part of the job of being a company commander is representing your unit at different events. I feel it is important to show support for other units and the things they may or may not be going through. This week I attended the Memorial Ceremony of a true American Hero: SPC Gavin J. Colburn.

For a little background on SPC Colburn and what happened read these news reports:
Cleveland Plain Dealer: Ohio reservist killed by missile (M23's note: It wasn't a missile)
WCPO.com: Ohio Soldier Killed By Roadside Bomb In Iraq

I have never met SPC Colburn. He was one of the many faces here at my FOB. But, by attending this service, I learned a lot about who he is. Not by what was said by his battle buddies, leaders and Friends, but also by the other things.

Just like all Memorial Services, it was a very somber place. The place was full of Soldiers there to pay their respects to the fallen. At the front of the theatre were the American Flag and the unit Guidon, below it was the traditional boots, rifle and helmet. On the screen there was a rotating slide show of pictures of SPC Colburn. To me, he looked like a very proud soldier.

Waiting for the service to begin, I had plenty of time to read the program. It contains a collage of the same pictures that were rotation on the big screen, a short biography and two poems. These poems are very good and very timely to the service. I have found these poems online:

Silent Tears by Kaitlin Marquart
No Hero by Ryan Wemmer

I read these a couple times, I really like them.

During the service, I got to know what kind of person SPC Colburn was. He was a man of honor, courage and loyalty. This was evident from listening to his friend and battle buddy or over 5 years. She (I will leave her nameless) said SPC Colburn always cared for others. He would always be there to help people learn new tasks, even if he didn't like them. He would be the first to volunteer for anything that needed to get done. She made some really nice comments that she could not finish without breaking down and crying, along with many people in the seats. She has been truly strong through this whole ordeal.

This was a real soldier, a real man, a real friend and a valuable member of his unit.

After all of the leader and soldier tributes and a wonderful strong version of Amazing Grace, the unit's First Sergeant called the roll. He starts by calling for a couple troopers who were in attendance and they would respond by saying "Here First Sergeant." Then he calls SPC Colburn. With no answer, he called again and then again. If you have not personally witnessed this, you cannot imagine how hard it is to hear the silence. After hearing all of these people say how wonderful SPC Colburn is, not hearing him answer when he is called really makes your mind put it all together that he is gone.

Now that everyone is filled with grief by the roll call, it is immediately followed by the "Firing of Volleys" and Taps. I really hate that song. Every time I hear it, I know that someone who has served his or her community or country has died. I really F***ing hate that song. I have recently heard it for a WWII vet friend of the family and a police officer friend of mine. Now I have heard it for a soldier Killed in Action. That song brings a lot of emotion out of me.

As the ceremony ends, the Officers and Soldiers pay their final respects to SPC Colburn, led by the Commanding General. Two by two, soldiers approach the boots, rifle and helmet and render a salute. This can be a long process when there are a lot of people in attendance. While I was waiting I looked across the aisle and looked at his company. I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with a few of the enlisted troops from his company while waiting on a flight. They impressed me as fun, down to earth professionals that I wanted on my side. You could read their faces and body language. They had lost a good man. Above anything else this told me how much that company of professionals is going to miss SPC Colburn.

SPC Gavin J. Colburn, May you rest in peace.

Update: Fallen Heroes Memorial has a page to leave messages, memories, or condolences for SPC Colburn's friends and family.