Amid the usual allotment of cat memes, inspirational quotes, and political chatter, it was only ONE post that really caught my eye… my longtime friend Roxanne posting “Happy Alive Day” to her husband Mike. Roxanne and I knew each other way back in Boston. We both worked in media, my wife and I attended their wedding toasting the happy couple, and as life often does, it got in the way over the years, and we haven’t kept in touch nearly as well as we should have. Which brings me back to alive day… actually Mike’s 7th alive day. What’s an alive day? I didn’t know. But I do now.
For Mike and his fellow soldiers it was the day they survived an ambush in Iraq. Roxanne got the call around midnight… she says she had a feeling days before that something bad was going to happen. It did. A house check turned into a fierce firefight as insurgents opened fire on Mike and his fellow troops with AK’s. They returned fire. Minutes would change lifetimes. In the end, several soldiers were left with severe wounds, lifelong wounds. Two of the team members shouldn’t have made it but somehow they did. You always hear people say time stands still and life flashes before their eyes. In this case time DID stand still. Literally. This is a picture of the one standing wall left behind… when the gunfire and blasts from the ambush and return firefight finally came to an end… the clock still intact.
Mike ended up at Walter Reid Hospital on a long road to rehab. He was told he might never use his hand again. He knew it could have been so much worse. Even so, try explaining it all to little kids. As Roxanne and Mike tell me, “Caroline was only a year old and played with the shrapnel pieces in a specimen jar like a rattle. Emily, who was 4 1/2, had to go to counseling. In her mind, bad men went and beat up daddy and his friends, and stole all of the valentines cards we had sent them”. I picture those cute cards with the hearts all over them that a little kid would give her dad. Mike would get stronger… days and months would pass. He’d prove the specialists wrong and regain much of the use of his hand. But, even now, he still has a loss of feeling and embedded shrapnel as the stark reminder of what happened. Mike would receive another heart as well… not a Valentine’s heart… but the Purple Heart for his actions there in Iraq that day. 7 years have now passed but the memories are still fresh. His 7th alive day. 7 alive YEARS if you will for Major Mike McGaffigan and his fellow Cobra brethren as he calls them. And each year they mark the occasion.
What’s an Alive Day? Well, the way I figure it, it’s the day you easily could have died but didn’t. It’s the new beginning. Thank you all for coming home safe. Thank you all for your service.