"In the midst of life we are in death "Last Saturday I stood quietly with a group of people around a redbud tree at Fort Stewart's Warriors Walk. The tree was planted this past summer in memory of Corporal Bryant Luxmore, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in June.As his family and friends looked on, a Christmas wreath was placed at the foot of his tree. Afterwards, a soldier presented a posthumous medal to Corporal Luxmore's wife and parents. In the following silence, I noticed something that turned the quotation above on its head.
Bryant J. Luxmore, "B.J." to his family, was a soldier in the 1-64 Armor Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. His unit had been deployed to southern Afghanistan for nine months. One of Luxmore's fellow soldiers, who was in touch with a civilian through the Adopt-a-Soldier program, emailed his civilian sponsor about "Lux" when he died. Curtis was the soldier's name. Anne was his civilian sponsor.
Through a series of circumstances too complex to recount, Curtis's heartfelt email brought several strangers together at Corporal Bryant J. Luxmore's tree on this gray December afternoon. It was the day of the wreath-laying ceremony at Warriors Walk, a grove of redbuds memorializing 3rd Infantry Division soldiers who have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The last of the 1-64 Armor Regiment came home on Saturday, Dec. 8, uncasing the unit colors on Fort Stewart's Cottrell Field. B.J. Luxmore should have been among them. Anne and I were there on the 8th to greet Curtis, but after the jubilation of the homecoming waned, Anne and I visited Warriors Walk. Corporal Luxmore's redbud tree was not hard to find -- it is one of the most recently planted. In the silent darkness, I photographed his memorial marker. I included the picture in an email to friends, giving an account of the 1-64's homecoming ceremony.
Doug Magruder of Atlanta read the email, saw the picture and asked me a question. Could I put him in touch with Corporal Luxmore's family? Doug wanted to dedicate a paver to the fallen warrior at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus.
Doug did not know B.J. Luxmore. But he knows what it's like to lose men he loved in combat. While he was a platoon leader in Vietnam, several of his men were killed in action, two of them right before his eyes. But they live in his soul, every day.
I linked Doug with B.J.'s family. Emails flew among them for days with CCs to me.
B.J.'s parents, Brenda and Leonard, along with his wife and son, mentioned that they would fly down from Illinois to Fort Stewart for the wreath-laying ceremony last Saturday.
So there we were, Doug and Anne and I, standing among the throng surrounding B.J.'s tree.
After the presentation of the medal, the onlookers stood in silence, unsure of what to do next. During the moments of uncertainty, I studied the bare limbs of the redbud tree. I thought I spotted a tiny knot of pink blossoms on one of the branches. Was I seeing things? It couldn't be; the blooming season was long past.
Finally I edged over to the soldier in charge and whispered, "Is it OK to speak to the family now?"
"It's OK to speak to them at any time, ma'am," he answered.
Brenda, B.J.'s mother, found Doug. I think she felt he understood her pain better than anyone present. They talked for a long time, his comforting arm around her thin shoulders.
We parted after making plans to meet in Columbus when the paver is dedicated next Memorial Day.
Back in Savannah, Doug treated Anne and me to lunch. Conferring in our cozy booth, we shared the pictures we had taken. Doug transferred his shots quickly to his iPad, enlarged them, and turned the tablet to us so we could see.
"Wait " I said, reaching my fingers toward the screen. "May I zoom in on this one?"
What I saw suggested that, though in the midst of life we are in death, the reverse is also true.
There it was confirmation. On a bare limb of B.J.'s tree, a cluster of tiny pink flowers bloomed.
Carol Megathlin, formerly of Americus, is a writer who now lives in Savannah. To adopt a 3rd Infantry Division soldier deployed to Afghanistan, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.