January 7th

January 8, 2017 — Leave a comment

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Hours after telling friends and family “Happy New Year!” the countdown for me truly begins. January 1st is meant to be a day of renewal and refreshment as a new year is rung in and we +1 the year we sign with, but for me and my family January 1st starts the countdown to January 7th and the anniversary of the day we lost a truly great man.

2017 marks the 3rd anniversary of the crash that took the life of not only my cousin Captain Sean Michael Ruane, but of three other airmen that chose the dangerous career of pararescue. It was on the night of January 7th, 2014 that the HH60-G PaveHawk designated Jolly 2-2 took its final flight as it crashed in a nature preserve on the coast of England while performing a low-level nighttime rescue training mission.

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I’d like to say that I talked to Sean often and saw him every chance I got, but that’s just not the case. For a few years I had a running fight with my father and chose to put off seeing much of my family to avoid seeing him. That meant I willingly missed Sean’s wedding and didn’t see him when he cam back for those holidays. Sean and I did email from time to time, but it was more often than not an email from him to our entire family, which I rarely responded to.

Sean, in his infinitely forgiving character chose to never hold that against me, which is something I will never forget. While I put off seeing and talking to people for years, he kept sending me emails and letting me know that it was ok that I was having issues with my dad, and that he hoped we worked them out.

On January 1, 2014 I made a simple beer joke on Facebook that Sean chose to click the Like button for. I saw that and thought to myself “Brian, this has gone on too long, you need to reach out and talk to Sean.” As is the case with many such thoughts, it faded away into the “do it later” part of the brain, and it was forgotten.

Six days later while working in the evening I received multiple calls from my sister. When I finally answered one to see what was wrong, I was greeted with sobs and words I couldn’t understand. When I got her to calm down a little, she told me that Sean was dead. The floor fell out from under me and I chose to finish that night’s work because I simply couldn’t handle the thought of dealing with those emotions. After work I came home and told Dana what happened, and made the call I should have made many years sooner, and talked to my dad.

Time dragged on throughout the month of January as we waited for Sean to be released to come home, and when he was, Dana was there beside me as I reconnected with my family in Dover, Delaware while we waited for Sean and his fellow fallen airmen to depart the C-17 they came home on and partake in the Dignified Transfer. In attendance here was the Secretary of the Air Force, Chief Master Sergeant for the Air Force, and the Air Force Chief of Staff.

To this day the fact that these important, very busy people chose to stand with us on a sub-freezing, windy runway at nearly 1 in the morning to welcome our fallen heroes home one last time.

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A few hours before sitting down to write this I had my yearly drink with Sean and shared a Guinness and a shot of Ardbeg Scotch Whisky with him to try and make up for all the ones he and I missed because I was stubborn and lazy. It’s a tradition I’m not alone in, as there were quite a few footprints and a few drinks of varying sources already there as his friends and family did their own yearly tradition with him.

This year I chose to stand there and sip my Ardbeg while looking out over the fields and runways that Sean’s gravesite overlooks. It’s a view he would have loved to see, and I’m so glad it’s one we get to see every time I go to his grave. Do I think Sean’s up there looking down at me or that he can hear me when I talk to him there? No, I don’t. But that doesn’t stop me from doing it. There’s a little bit of Sean that lives in me now, and tries to make me a better person that’s friendlier, more compassionate, and smiles more.

We always speak well of the dead, and people tend to forget the bad once that final pint gets poured, but with Sean that’s simply not the case. He had no enemies that I knew of, and had a group of friends so dedicated to him that they still talk about him and raise money in his name.

I doubt I’ve impacted anyone’s life enough to get a single event thrown in my name, let alone an entire charity and yearly blowout 3 years and counting. I’ve just never been that good of a person. Thanks to Sean and the legacy he’s left behind, I’m trying to be that better person today, and while I rarely succeed, I try, and I guess in the end that’s all that matters.

With my yearly countdown to January 7th done, the waiting for the anniversary of the DT, funeral, and burial are next. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over this, and a part of me hopes I never do.

What I do know is that I really fucking miss Sean, and I wish I hadn’t squandered the short time I had with him. The world truly is a little bit worse without him in it.

Having my friends tell me how sorry they are, and offer to help in any way they can is great, and I’m so thankful for that, but if you’re reading this, what you can do is decide to make today the day you stop putting off that phone call to the person you know you should talk to. While you’re at it, tell them why. Let them know that this guy you know lost his chance, and you don’t want to have the same thing happen to you. If you were waiting for a sign to reach out, this is it.

Honor Sean’s name and his amazing spirit of goodwill, family, and friendship by closing that gap today.

I started this as a Facebook post, but when it started approaching 1,000 words I thought it best to make it into a post on my personal site. The idea that the election of 2016 was by and far the worst in recent memory is hard to argue. From insane statements from the Republicans to the shady dealings of the Democrats…it was a tough year to be excited about voting.

In the wake of Donald Trump winning the election and earning his spot as the 45th President of the United States, it seems that we live in a nation divided, even after the votes are counted and the concession and celebration speeches have been spoken. Most of this divide comes from the intense dislike of both Trump and Clinton by nearly half of the nation respectively. The surprise win by Trump speaks volumes to what is wrong with our nation, and appropriately enough, speaks to the fact that American truly does need to be made great again.

With this in mind, it’s important to understand that Trump was elected not by misogynistic racists, but by your fellow Americans. The way our system of government works, and has worked since its inception is by allowing the “majority” of citizens to vote for who they feel is the best choice out of a subset of candidates. Sure, there’s an electoral college there too, but it’s there for a good, fair reason. It’s not the problem in this instance. Read up on it, it’s not the demon we all make it out to be.

Trump’s supporters are not all terrible people that are OK with everything he says, they’re just not OK with what has happened in recent years, and they’re definitely not OK with Clinton.

Oh, and those people that didn’t vote, good for them. Maybe the problem isn’t with the number of citizens choosing not to vote, but rather the issue is with their choices. Why is it required that we all vote when we may not respect or support either (or any) of the candidates up for election?

Personally I voted for Clinton not because I like her or believe in her policies, but rather I felt that given the choices, it was the safest choice.

You see, that’s what is great about our government. We can choose to vote for whomever we want, and once the votes are counted, we (hopefully) come back to being a single nation again and rally behind the government that we, the people have chosen.

You may not like Trump, you may even hate him, and that’s OK. You might think that he’s not “your” President, but that’s where things change. We live in this society knowing that what we want isn’t always what we get. You can’t make everyone happy all of the time, and you’ll go mad if you try.

A Nation Divided

Trump was elected because of an unrest in our nation. A belief that certain groups aren’t being noticed or respected, and I’m not talking about the KKK. I’m talking about conservatives that continually vote for small government and metered change, and instead receive the opposite. They don’t support (for the most part) Trump’s abusive language or his inability to filter himself, and I’m pretty sure they don’t support his stupid remarks and treatment of Gold Star families and POWs. They wanted to be heard, and for better or worse, they were.

So what’s next? For starters we as a people must stop deepening the line that’s drawn in the sand. Trump was elected because of that line, and to deepen it with protests and anger will only serve to embolden the true zealots and make matters worse.

Racism and misogyny were here long before Trump ever thought of running for office, and they’ll probably be here long after he’s gone, especially if we continue to ignore the root cause and focus on the result, which is Trump’s Presidency.

Until we as a nation deal with the problems that we have and stop sweeping them under the rug, this is only the start. Trump isn’t the reason people have been targeted or abused in the past week, he’s just the reason we saw the pictures and heard the stories. Without a major news story to tie those terrible accounts to, nobody would have cared, and that’s what’s wrong with us.

Take Action

You want to feel better about the Trump administration? Start caring more, and not just online. When you hear or see racism, violence against people because of religion or nationality, or mistreatment of women DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. The NFL comes just short of full-on supporting the abuse of women but yet it’s the most popular sport in our nation. Trump mentioned inappropriately touching a woman while more than 50 NFL players have been arrested and charged with domestic abuse since 2006, yet he’s who we choose to focus on.

Supporting real change and progress is tough. We sometimes have to give up things we want to see the change we feel we need. You want to help women gain more respect and safety? Start with boycotting the NFL. You want to help immigrants start their lives here safely and legally? Donate to immigrant action funds to help them land on their feet. Oh, and vote for local and national representatives that support immigration policies, and not just every 4 years for the Presidential election.

Do things that make the world a better place. Volunteer, donate, and for the sake of our nation, stop acting like you got cheated if your candidate didn’t win. Our nation voted, and its collective voice was heard. You may not be happy with the results, but as a US citizen you need to accept them.

Trump is now your President. He’s my President, and he’s the Trump supporter’s President. He’s Hillary’s President, Obama’s President, and until something changes that, it’s our new reality. To protest this idea or fight the facts is to protest our constitution and the system that has served us well since the original #Brexit at the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783.

Don’t be a part of making the divide worse. Accept the choice made by your fellow citizens and work inside the system to make it better. Be the kind of person you expect our President to be and urge your representatives to do the same. While you’re at it, read our founding documents, and do it with an open mind. You’ll find there’s a lot in there you didn’t know.