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November 19, 2008

The Persistence of Memory

Troyer-2.jpgFrom underneath the trees
We watch the sky
Confusing stars for satellites
I never dreamed that you'd be mine
But here we are
We're here tonight

Singing Amen
I, I'm alive
Singing Amen
I, I'm alive...

November 19, 2005.

Lance Corporal Tyler J. Troyer of 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. died of wounds sustained from small-arms fire while he was conducting combat operations against enemy forces near Karmah, Iraq.

How do you say goodbye to a friend? To a lover? To a son, a brother, a nephew, someone you grew up with?

Someone you always thought would be there?

The email dropped into my Inbox at precisely 8:54 last night. It doesn't matter who it was from. What matters is that he was remembered:

If you have a minute tomorrow, please think of Michael and Terri Troyer. Her son, LCpl Tyler Troyer was killed on 11/19/2005 in Al Karmah. Sniper bullet. He grew up with my **** and served with ****. I'm going to run out to their house at lunch for a few minutes but couldn't get out of a late afternoon meeting for the hot dog roast at his grave site. I'll drink a beer in his memory tomorrow night though, and I never drink beer in the wintertime except on November 19.

I remember when emails like that felt like hailstones, battering their way past the carefully constructed barriers I erected to get me through the work day without crying. In 2005, even when I had quit VC - mostly quit writing - they demanded a response. And they got one. They always got one.

Even if there was no one to read it.

They were the reason I could never quite manage to take this site down last November. I couldn't bear to wipe out the memorials.

I didn't know Tyler. In reading about his life, what comes across most vividly is how much he was loved:

A Marine who was fatally shot in the head while on patrol in Iraq was remembered in this working-class community for his blazing fastball, his sense of humor and his devotion to family.

More than 300 people gathered at the Linn County Expo Center on Wednesday to say goodbye to Lance Cpl. Tyler Troyer, 21, of Tangent, who died on Nov. 19.

The crowd wore buttons with a picture of Troyer, who was a star left-hander for the West Albany High School baseball team before joining the Marines.

More than a dozen family members and friends told stories of the mischievous boy who sometimes got into trouble as a youngster. They also praised him as being the glue that connected a family split by divorce.

“Tyler was an example of a person with a destiny in his life,” Galen Troyer, the Marine’s uncle, said from a stage adorned with hundreds of flowers. “He had goals and knew what he wanted to do. Tyler cared about people, and he made a difference.”

Troyer’s father, David Troyer, remembered the day when his son told him he needed his signature so he could sign up for the Marines because he wasn’t yet 18.

“I was a bit nervous,” David Troyer recalled. “But I could see it in his eyes that this was something he really wanted to do. I saw a real change in him.”

Photographs of Troyer sat on easels in the hallway and auditorium of the Expo Center. On one, the young man was pictured with the woman he planned to marry, Megan Oswald.

A newspaper announcement of their engagement was centered at the top of the frame. Below were photos of the pair embracing in front of the White House and sitting beneath a freshly decorated Christmas tree in their apartment. Another easel showed photos of Troyer’s military life and his stint in Iraq. He played soccer with young Iraqis and joined in group pictures with his fellow Marines.

Terri Thorpe, Troyer’s mother, was last to speak. She talked about her the fears she had with a son at war and she remembered the 21 years she had with him.

“He will always continue to be in our hearts,” she said.

A note on one of his memorial pages from his mother Terri says, ”I just wish that for every other person out there who is over there on duty, there would be people asking, ‘Tell me about him’”.

Three years after the day that bullet found him, he is still remembered. Tyler is memorialized on the Internet and by a group of people who never even knew him. They will raise a glass in his honor tonight and light a candle in his memory. I hope some of you here at VC will do that too.

Tyler is also remembered by his fellow Marines. I got another email late tonight. If Terri is out there, she should know that Tyler's buddies spoke of him today. He has not been forgotten, and I suspect he never will be as long as there is a Marine alive who served with him. They carry his memory inside of them, keeping him forever young. They get quiet, this time of year.

This is something that binds these men together. It is good they returned to keep the memories alive. Someone should.

Someone has to, or it was all for nothing.

And as we lie beneath the stars
We realize how small we are
If they could love like you and me
Imagine what the world could be?

If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
Then we'd see the day when nobody died
When nobody died...

I can't wait for that day to come. Meanwhile, I thank God for the sacrifices of men and women who are far better and braver than I will ever be.

Look what you did, Tyler. You - all of you - the ones who came back and the ones who didn't make it: you changed the world.

You made history. Against all hope, against all odds. Who would have thought it was possible? It's in their hands now.

Victory. It's been a such long time coming. On a brilliant September morning more than seven years ago, death came hurtling from the sky. And in an instant the world as we knew it changed forever.

Was it worth it? Was it worth losing you?

When we stand in the valley of historical events, it's hard to say. A Sergeant Major my husband once worked with gave him a gift engraved with a quotation from his hero, General Robert E. Lee. Now there is a man who saw a lot of heartache. Anyway, it always made a lot of sense to me. A soldier does his best. The outcome, he leaves to history:

Duty is the sublimest word in the English language.
You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more. You should never wish to do less.

All I know is that this nation owes you a debt that we can never repay. God bless you, Lance Corporal Troyer. And thank you, for whatever than may be worth.

Sleep well, son.

Posted by Cassandra at November 19, 2008 04:48 PM

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Sometimes words fail me.

May God's rest and reward be yours, Tyler.

We'll take care of things. Promise.

Posted by: spd rdr at November 19, 2008 10:47 PM

Wonderful tribute to a fine Marine, son, and brother. He is a part of history and I am thankful for him.

Posted by: Deb at November 19, 2008 11:33 PM

Semper Fi, Tyler.

Posted by: yak at November 19, 2008 11:56 PM

Where now the horse and the rider?
Where is the horn that
was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire
Where is the sping and the harvest and the tall corn
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind
in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills
into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at November 20, 2008 12:08 AM

May I take this opportunity to praise those serving who are not in uniform? My cousin, an engineer with a somewhat faulty sense of how he should treat his wife died of a that dissection thingy that killed John Ritter (forgive me for my lack of technical expertise here).

His funeral was all about how he realized before he died that he'd made mistakes and would live the rest of his life in God's service. It was really rather depressing to hear about his divorce and such at his funeral.

Finally, at the end of the gravesite service, another engineer (need I say that both these men had been employed Halliburton (or one of its subdivisions) at one time or another?) stood up to testify about the good he'd done - building mess halls for the military in Bosnia, while also designing and helping to build, in his time "off", bridges and other infrastructure for the Bosnian people.

While I do not want to subtract from the honor of our military men and women (my son-in-law is returning in mid-December from his second tour in Iraq, for example) I want to say that the military is not the only institution that's been on the receiving end of undeserved condemnation.

I recall my son-in-law telling me how thrilled he was that the dining hall was finally built and he didn't have to live on MREs and how good a "real" shower felt.

Ahh... I'm way off subject here, but many Americans not in the military deserve credit for their service, okay? ...end of today's little rant.

Posted by: Donna B. at November 20, 2008 12:42 AM

The building complex for the new Iraqi Flight School is nearing completion. When I got here last year, the site was an empty, rock-strewn field, so barren that not even the scorpions that live under our temporary schoolhouse would go there.

The people who are the future of Iraq will live and study and train in those buildings -- they'll be there because of those who fought to give Iraq a future...

Posted by: BillT at November 20, 2008 02:17 AM

It's never easy.

Posted by: camojack at November 20, 2008 03:41 AM

Absolutely, Donna.

When the final story of Iraq and Afghanistan is written there will be so many people we never heard about in it; so many unsung heroes who were (in fact) ordinary men and women called upon to do extraordinary things. And the weight of all those decisions, made each day - to keep showing up, to keep doing what had to be done instead of giving up - is the lever that will prove to have changed history.

It's amazing when you think about it. And it must really gall Harry Reid.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 20, 2008 05:34 AM

FWIW, we have quite a few VC readers who are in Iraq and the 'Stan with contractors. Some several times now.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 20, 2008 05:36 AM

Semper Fidelis!

Posted by: JHD at November 20, 2008 07:08 AM

He lived.

We don't forget.

Posted by: Semper Fi Wife at November 20, 2008 09:22 AM

Thank you Cassandra and Don Broughaha.And for the quotes also and especially JRR Tolkien.
"A man is not Dead;Until he is Forgotten"
"Semper Fi"
USMC(R) 1964-1970

Posted by: Mike at November 20, 2008 06:05 PM

I wish it had come out better. I wish all of them were perfect. They deserve so much more.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 20, 2008 06:31 PM

You done good Cassie.

Thanks for that! :-)

Posted by: JHD at November 20, 2008 08:24 PM

Semper Fi Marine. As long as there is one Marine, your legacy will live.

No better friend; no worse enemy. My Marines were always the best. I have no doubt that Tyler too was one of the best. At all the Tun Taverns, he will be remebered with reverence. For, in the final analysis the memories a man makes are how he lives on after he is gone.

Thanks for posting it Ms. Cassandra. And for holding down the toughest job in the USMC - A Marine Wife!

Posted by: CW4, ex CPO at November 20, 2008 09:16 PM

My name is Michael and I am Tyler's Dad
Good to see you JHD....been awhile !!
I just wanted to take a second and post a Thank You tou you all for remembering my son Tyler on his 3rd Angelversary 11-19. He have had very little contact from Marines the last couple years and we miss it.It was very nice this morning to get an email from Deb Conrad with links to what is posted here. i wish I could have been around those Marines to toast their comrades, but I did the same for them at Tyler's grave last night.
I would love contact from anyone that knew my son and/or has a story to tell about him.
I built a memorial website for Tyler at www.tylerjohntroyer.com and i have a Myspace site for his as well.
Please visit if you wish !!
A big thank you !!!

Posted by: Michael Thorpe at November 20, 2008 10:00 PM

My children sleep at peace in their beds at night because your son, and men like your son stand guard, and have stood guard over this country.

"Thank you" isn't big enough to express how I feel. But it's all I've got today.
Tyler won't be forgotten. I think that someday the whole country will express it's gratitude to the men who served, both living and dead, to end tyranny in Iraq and bring about a just and lasting peace.

Vaya con Dios.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at November 20, 2008 11:39 PM