SGT Lewis was not my friend. He had in fact stated that expressly on more than one occasion. He felt we were “buddies” which is to say people the military forced together whether they liked each other or not, but who were entitled to the same type of loyalty and decency as a friend.
SGT Lewis did not always appreciate my sense of humor, but he liked it enough to encourage me when I wasn’t interfering with anything pressing, and even suggested that comedy might be a good career choice for when I got out.
SGT Lewis was never my supervisor, nor was he even in the same branch as me. In fact, when we first met I technically outranked him, due to a mishap that occurred just before he finished Special Forces Medical Sergeant training. But he did teach me how to field strip an M-60, how to operate it properly, and pretty much every useful skill I needed to learn as I transitioned from a booter to a soldier who could be depended upon in a tactical team.
SGT Lewis didn’t spend a lot of time bragging, but he was quite frankly the sort of bad-a** that is the basis for video games and actions movies. He could swap between operating a vehicle, teaching firearms, applying emergency medicine, learning Arabic, or opening up a can of hand to hand whoop-a** without batting an eye. He had on more than one occasion demonstrated his ability to swap to such a degree that it could be uncomfortable to be around him.
SGT Lewis wasn’t a bureaucrat, but he could do things to a bureaucracy that that would make an experienced Parisian whore blush with shame, shudder with revulsion, and probably take notes.
SGT Lewis wasn’t a screw up, or the unit clown, but he was the perpetrator behind several of the items on Gwens list of things I can't do.
SGT Lewis was never directly responsible for me, or a lot of the other soldiers while we served. But he took responsibility. He made sure we had things we needed, even if we didn’t know what they were, or the best ways to do things, or even the reasons why. He knew when to push, and when someone had reached the breaking point, and he knew how to back off if that’s what one of his guys genuinely needed.
SGT Lewis wasn’t a violent man, but he would kick your a** under the right circumstances. He is the only person I have ever been beaten up by who has turned an a** beating into a lesson on hand-to-hand combat. Twice. I think I actually have a photo of him laying the smack down on me, taken by a quick witted teammate of mine.
SGT Lewis wasn’t a particularly sentimental person, but he did give an old Yugoslavian flag he “acquired” to another soldier whose inexperience precluded him from participating in the “let’s check out the destroyed Bosnian stronghold” activities. Just to make the guy feel better.
SGT Lewis didn’t feel overly beholden to rules for rules’ sake, but he still wouldn’t let me sign out early when I started my Medical Discharge. In his words, “Because, ******** you LaFata, that’s why.” He was the last person from my base, hell from that whole chapter of my life, that I saw as I drove South on I-95.
SGT Lewis wasn’t the sort of man that you would think would take his own life. But he did. And the world really seems a lesser place for it.
SGT Lewis was not my friend. But he was a good man, and the epitome of what I think of when I hear the words “professional soldier”. He had a tremendous influence over a long and difficult time in my life. And I really wish that he was still around.
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