|Sergeant First Class Dan McKinney in Iraq|
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”― Heraclitus
At four a.m. this morning, I woke up to the sound of some drunk driver hitting my mailbox with his side mirror. After I went outside to check the damage, I realized that I would never be able to fall asleep again, so I checked my email.
Awaiting me was the news that my long-time friend, Sergeant First Class Dan McKinney, had passed away. He was not just my friend; he was the friend to countless numbers of his fellow Americans, especially to those who – like him – had been wounded in action. Dan and I had both served in Vietnam at different times, just as we would both serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom in different years. We were also both law enforcement officers. He worked for the feds; I was a city cop.
I wrote about Dan years ago after he was wounded in Iraq, and I related the story of his heroic actions. That article appeared in the Orlando Sentinel here: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2005-09-24/news/GRIST24_1_dan-mckinney-iraq-wounded and also here in my blog where I referenced the Sentinel article: http://americanranger.blogspot.com/2006/12/bravery-under-fire.html .
One incident I did not discuss was a training mission in the Army Reserve where Dan and I showed the youngsters how a couple of Vietnam vets could kick their asses.
The mission required a company sized infantry defense, with booby traps, listening posts, and about a hundred soldiers. Their mission was to defend against the ominous threat of the two of us. That’s right. We were the “Viet Cong” sappers, and before the night was over we had successfully “blown up” much of the interior of their perimeter (including trucks and generators) and “assassinated” their commander.
Of course, no one was really hurt by the two old guys dressed in black, but we enjoyed teaching them a lesson they would never forget.
Dan lived a life full of meaning and sacrifice. As a wounded warrior himself, he became an inspiration to countless other wounded warriors by helping them and their families recover from terrible life-changing injuries. He not only displayed courage in Iraq when he was severely wounded by a suicide bomber, but his recovery from those devastating wounds was also an example of immense courage.
America has lost one of its best warriors. The Army has lost one of its most valuable members. All of us who serve, or have served, have lost a friend.
Godspeed, Dan. Hold a place on the perimeter for me….
Charles M. Grist