Captain Jason Ellis Holbrook, KIA 29Jul2010 Tsagay, Afghanistan

Posted on July 29, 2012



I remember the exact moment when I found out.  I was at Dallas International Airport with a one hour layover waiting to come back to Austin.  I was with 2Lt Garcia, you never knew her but she is one of the good ones, when I was checking my phone for emails and messages when I ran across a Facebook post about your passing.  My first thought was disbelief.  That lasted an entire three seconds before panic set in.  I immediately did the Facebook shuffle and went from page to page until I realized that what I was reading was, in fact, true: you had died.  And it was in that instant that everything I had held back, everything I fought so hard to contain about my tour in Iraq was made real and solid.  I am not even sure if I made complete sentences but the one thing I can remember saying over and over was, “He died.  He died.”  A strange panic had set in.  I dropped everything I had and began to run.  I had no idea what direction I was going but I knew that if I got to Austin everything would be alright.  So fast and with a hammer like quality everything hit me.  You were gone.  I made it a few dozen feet when I stopped and realized this was not the time nor the place to let this kind of emotion show.  I explained to Lt. Garcia what happened and even she was at a loss.  Our flight was on time and scheduled to leave in forty-five minutes. “Get your shit together.” was all I could think.  Out of reflex my sunglasses went on and my headphones went in. The only visible signs were the few tear drops that inched their way down my face the entire plane ride back.  An old lady on the plane next to me noticed and gave me one of the kindest gestures I have received: without a word she reached over and squeezed my hand.  That is all.  She had no clue that on the inside my heart a grenade went off and shredded me to the core.  She knew nothing about me but only I was in pain.  A pain she could feel; a pain I believe only a mother can feel.  I wanted so hard to hug her, to just cry and cry.  I even wanted to plane to crash.  In my head I laid waste to every solid belief in God and in life I had.  I damned him.  I cursed his name over and over.  I demanded answers.  Even to this day, Sir, I feel almost ashamed to mourn you the way I have.  So many others on this earth were closer to you than I and yet here I am still so sore and raw about it all even as the second anniversary is coming over the back fence.  Everyday since you died I have done my best to hold it all back because my tears and sadness do not seem worthy.  You were the greatest leader of men I have ever encountered and by far the greatest man I had ever had the privilege to call my friend.  

I think about you a lot.  Especially about that letter you gave to me when I was preparing to leave Alaska and come back home to Texas.  You said some remarkable things about my character and your expectations of me.  I still have that letter, somewhere.  I gave it to a friend and told him to hide it from me but to make sure that I would always have it.  I hope that one day I will be able to pull it out and read it and have it not be the sharp edge it has turned into but rather a recollection of your generous character.

I hope that one day I can give you a proper goodbye.  As you know I was too chicken shit to go to your funeral.  And yeah, that is the biggest regret I will take to my grave.  I was so caught up in my emotion and how I might react that I failed to give you the proper respect you deserved especially since you were just down the road in Burnet.  I have a lot of growing up to do.  The past two years have been rough.  With your passing other old wounds were opened.  Dykman and all the events of December 20, 2006 have been rehashed over and over.  My absence during Bolar’s death has been especially  hard.  I know I should not, but I put a lot of blame on myself.  Each and everyone one of you put your faith and trust in me that I would be there when it counted.  I am not sure if I ever told you what my biggest fear was while deployed.  But it was that one of you all would die while I was not able to help.  So much time and preparation went into my training to make sure I was able to take care of you guys was just simply thrown away while I was on leave.  So many nights I can not sleep because of the guilt, Sir.  So much pain and so much guilt eats at me that the only way to deal with it is to just hope that it all happened for a reason.  My faith in God has been rocked but I still have not seen the reasons for all this.  If anything I am a weaker man that was almost broken by war.  A weaker man for cursing his God and a smaller man for not even being able to attend your funeral.  I hope that when all the cards are on the table I will have the forgiveness of you and from anyone else I let down by simply not being there.  

I do think this has been therapeutic, in a strange way.  My therapist said my writings would be the key.  I think he may have been right.  But no amount of writing, no amount of self reflection will fill this void.  The loneliness  cuts deep and the sadness dwells like a strange cold jabbing at my insides.  I miss you.  I miss all of us from 3rd Platoon who are still around.  I have never really talked to anyone else about this but I am sure you can see way up there where you are.  I hope one day I can make you proud and I hope one day to see you again.  Geronimo!

Doc Espi

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