The cross-currents of individual lives can be interesting things. Through time we each follow our own paths. On occasion, these paths intersect unexpectedly with those of greater men and women.
During my life, my path crossed several times with one of my generation’s finest.
I met Jay in high school. He was a serious, quiet, and determined person. He was also one heck of an athlete, leading my high school soccer team to the State Championship as its all-star goalie.
Opting for a more serious life dedicated to service, Jay applied for and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
After we graduated from high school, I never considered that my path might cross with Jay again during my military career.
But alas, the military community is a small one.
When Jay arrived at the National Training Center, I was happy to see him again.
Life has a funny way of timing things. Coincidentally, our daughters were born a day and one room apart in the same hospital ward.
During my last year of military service in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, I was thrilled to learn that Jay would command Echo Troop, Alpha Troop’s sister company, where I had served as an executive officer.
I knew the soldiers of Echo Troop well. At the National Training Center Alpha and Echo Troop served together every month as a Soviet-style Motorized Rifle Battalion. We ate together and we trained together.
Before leaving the high Mojave desert forever, I came to see Jay one last time to make sure he knew what great soldiers he would command.
It was the last time I would ever speak to him.
Twenty months later, while sitting in the comfort of a business school classroom in Massachusetts, I learned that Jay would not be returning home to his family.
Exemplifying the principle of leadership by example, Jay was personally inspecting a vehicle at a traffic control point in Iraq when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated.
He died on April 29, 2005.
Jay was a quiet and serious officer who cared deeply about his soldiers and his country. His integrity, loyalty and selfless service were impeccable. He made the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live in freedom and for that we all owe him a great debt.
Jay, I still sorely miss you.