My nephew, Master Sergeant Michael Lyons, USMC, is retiring this weekend from the Marine Corps. His Father and Step Mother are out west in California, where the ceremony is taking place. I think it’s safe to say that he has some wicked proud family members stretched all the way across this country. I also think it’s safe to say that none of them are more proud of him than I am. He has been an incredible source of inspiration for me since I heard the news, twenty years ago, that he was enlisting in the Corps. Twenty years ago. My God, it seems just like yesterday.
It also seems like yesterday when I was holding him in my arms, in the living room of our house back in Little Falls. It seems like yesterday when I had him in my lap in a living room chair, trying to see if he could sit up on his own. It seems like yesterday when I thought he was doing pretty good on his own, until he began rocking back and forth, and finally took a header against the arm of the chair. It seems like yesterday when I told my mom that I had no idea why he started crying all of a sudden, even though there was a red mark on his forehead that was getting redder by the second.
Sorry mike. Uncle Deon did a bad thing me thinks.
I remember when I was in Michigan, visiting my folks at Sandy Pines, and someone passed me the phone. It was around 2004, or 5, and it was Gunnery Sergeant Michael Lyons, calling from Iraq. He had been there once already, and I think this was his second tour. I almost started crying, talking to him on the phone. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I couldn’t sit still. I remember my mother asked him if there was anything that he needed, and he said, “Beef Jerky. We need beef Jerky Nanna.” that was all that he said he needed, and it was for all of his platoon, or group, or whatever the term is that they use for those under his command. It was hotter than the hinges of hell where he was, and all he said he needed was some jerky for his brothers in arms. Needless to say, I think he received several packages of beef jerky in the mail soon thereafter.
I remember on September 11th, 2001. He had just arrived in Waterville and was staying at a motel in town. I had just finished my route on the coast. I had been listening to the goings on of the day, with all of the tragedy in NYC, Washington, and in Pennsylvania. I drove to the motel, knocked on his door, and his four year old son Aiden answered the door. I said, “My oh my, you look just like your father!”
He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Ya, but I’m a lot smaller than he is.” I almost died laughing. I went in the room, gave all kinds of hugs, and as we watched the transpiring events on the television, Michael looked at me and softly said, Well Uncle Deon, it looks like I’ll be heading to Iraq soon.
He was right, as within two or three years, he was heading for the great kitty litter box of the Middle East. “His words”
I managed to stop over to the recruiting office in Waterville where he was working, and he gave me some bumper stickers, which I proudly plastered all over my work truck, and the family mini-van. When I walked into his office, and saw him in his uniform, I got a strange feeling inside. I had never really been that close to a soldier, let alone a marine, let alone, my nephew, the Marine. It was an awesome sight that will stay embedded in my mind for the duration. He seemed so tall, and large, and so, Marine!
One of my customers on my route had a son that was still in high school. Michael had gone into his high school on a recruiting mission. This customer’s son was signed by Michael, and when I asked his mother about Michael, she told me that she was more impressed with his professionalism and appearance than she ever dreamed possible. She ended up craving for her son what she saw in Michael that day. She wanted her son to be able to represent his country, her country, as my nephew did. She wanted to be able to see and feel the passion of country that Gunnery Sergeant Michael Lyons showed her that day.
Her son did enlist, and became a Marine. She still has the tag, USMC in her email address to this day, even though her son was only in the Corps for a few years. It was the proudest few years that she could ever imagine. It made her love of country stronger, because it made it real, the same way that it has done for me.
When I see the red, white and blue, flying in the breeze, I get a sense of belonging to something that is much bigger than me, and much stronger than any one of us alone. I get a feeling of pride and purpose. I get a feeling of belonging to something incredibly strong, and amazingly free. I get a feeling that through whatever comes down the pike, as long as we have the colors flying across this land of ours, we will be able to endure. ? We will be able to endure, and it’s because of the love, the devotion and the sacrifices of those, like Michael Lyons.
I remember a picture that his father, my brother, emailed to me back a few years ago. It was taken on a highway in Iraq. It was a picture of a Marine, standing beside an assault vehicle. I don’t know if it was one of the Bradley vehicles or not, but it was a monstrous thing with tires taller than the Marine standing next to it. The Marine was standing in full gear, with a big gun strapped around his shoulders, hugging it close. The marine stood tall, and proud as he stared into the camera lens. He stood large and tall, on the side of that highway, seemingly unafraid and undaunted by where he was, and what he was supposed to do.
The marine was my nephew, Michael Lyons, and as I looked at the picture, over and over again, I welled up inside and started to cry. I couldn’t believe that this larger than life Marine was the same little bugger that sat teetering and wobbling in my lap just yesterday. I couldn’t believe that so much time had gone by. I couldn’t believe that anyone would ever have anything to fear with Marines like him on guard, at the ready, and willing to protect what we hold so near and dear to our hearts.
I felt safe as hell, and it was because of the Marine in the picture, staring back at me.
I owe him more than I can ever begin to be able to repay. I suppose that the best way to try and pay back this invaluable debt is to live my life as a free American. I suppose the best way to show my appreciation is to hold tight to the values and beliefs of our founding fathers. I suppose the best way I can ever begin to show my appreciation is to utter two simple words, Thank You.
I hope that one day, when it’s all said and done, Michael Lyons can start to understand what he means to me, to us, to our country. I hope that the praise and admiration of our soldiers never dies, and that the passion we feel towards them can someday come close to the passion that they feel for the same country that they took an oath to protect, no matter what.
I salute you, Michael Lyons. I salute what you remind me of, what you have become, and what you represent. This is the greatest country on the face of the earth. It always has been, and as long as it has brave protectors, such as you, it always will be.
May god Bless you and keep you safe, as you have done for us.