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Monday, June 3, 2019

A Bridge Project

They say The Battle of Nasiriyah  fought between the US 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Iraqi forces from 23 March to 2 April 2003 was the largest Marines battle since the War in Vietnam.  The battle led to the deaths of over 25 Marines. 

The viciousness of the battle can be glimpsed through these images and videos taken by the Marines themselves.

In the fall of 2018, I met one of those Marines through a Veterans Outreach Program.  Jeff served as a Scout Sniper during the battle.  The stories he has to tell are both amazing and sad. Jeff truly experienced combat at the tip of the spear. 

Jeff was honorably discharched from the Marines after his service. He, like many, found ways to cope with the traumas of war and for the most part integrated back into society with honor and dignity. Over the past year and a half however things took a turn for the worst when family relationships turned toxic and all his attempts to remedy the situation where hindered by a legal system that assumes combat veterans are broken and dangerous. 

To talk with Jeff is to talk with a guy who is proud of his life and heart broken at the same time. So much of his suffering stems from a sense of being betrayed by both God and Country. 

As a complement to the support I and others were providing Jeff, I recommended he create a Bridge Project. BPs are patriotic projects meant to unite Veterans and Civilians around the act of honoring the fallen and shared loved for the country. I recommended Jeff create a BP as something positive to do and think about but also because BPs create a framework for goodwill to show up in surprising ways. 

Jeff began his BP last winter.  He got a big American Flag and started taking it to different places and asking people to sign it.  All Bridge projects start in the fall/winter and culminate at Arlington National Cemetery during Mindful Memorial Day in the spring. 

During the winter months leading up to May I’d hear from Jeff about his BP.  The stories where all positive and uplifting. The Mayor of NYC even signed the flag.   When Jeff showed up at MMD on the second day we made his flag part of the Mindful Memorial Day experience. 

Here is Jeff’s flag at Mindful Memorial Day.  Many more people signed it with expressions of gratitude. 

The larger mission of  Mindful Memorial Day is to honor the almost 7000 Fallen service members who have died since 9/11.   Each name is given away on a lanyard in an exchange called a mindful moment of gratitude.  

Most people’s favorite part about honoring names is the meaningful connection made during the mindful moment.  This is especially true of the younger generations.  Seeing the way young Americans stand up straighter, focus, and make eye contact during the honoring of a name warms the heart and lifts the spirit.  Everyone feels it.  Even Combat Veterans. 

When we invited Jeff to honor names he was definitely unsure. But as timing would have it a huge group of several hundred kids showed up to honor names and as any good Marine Jeff stepped in to help out. 

Below you can see Jeff giving away one of the lanyards. This was just one of dozens and dozens of lanyards Jeff helped give away. 

Towards the end of the day Jeff asked me if I would accept his flag. Jeff still remembers all his drill and ceremony training so we followed all the rules during the transfer. 

Over the rest of the Mindful Memorial Day weekend I took the flag wherever I went. This includes honor visits to different gravesites to pay my respects on behalf of family members and friends of the fallen who could not be at Arlington over Memorial Day. 

Here is a picture of Jeff’s flag with some of the different people that came to Mindful Memorial Day to Honor the Fallen. 

Even after Mindful Memorial Day was over I continued to use the flag to bring people together and reinforce the basic message that we are all responsible for our freedoms. 

At Mindful Memorial Day we say they their sacrifice is our Responsibility.  We stand together to honor the fallen and support veterans because we have something inside us that calls out to be used in dark places.  Call it whatever you like, the soul, the spirit the atman, but know it’s there. Also know that it must be nurtured. If it is not, if the spark of goodwill is left to wallow in suffering it doesn’t just die, it turn into the darkness itself.   In other words we can easily become the darkness we are fighting against. Love and patience can easily become bitterness and vengeance. 

Jeff’s situation is by no means solved. He is still in the thick of it.  Jeff’s BP didn’t fix the challenges he faces but just maybe it fortifed his spirit enough to keep him moving forward. 

Semper Fi, Marine. 

If you are someone you know would like to create a Bridge Project for Mindful Memorial Day 2020 contact and we’ll get you started.


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