I want to do something a little different today. I want to share with you a piece that came to me via FaceBook from a fellow veteran: Sergeant First Class Louis ‘Ted’ Sheppard. I had the pleasure of being his XO when I was still on the line and he was one of my finest Platoon Daddy’s and NCO’s. I learned that the day after Veterans Day he unexpectedly suffered a stroke; now it looks like he is being med-boarded.
He posted this today and with his permission, I share it with you because I find it profound and inspirational.
‘Superman used to be my Hero
Talked with a battle buddy the other day. We went to Iraq together. He said I paved the way for him. He used words like confident, leadership, a source of strength, father figure, hero. I cried as I listened.
He reminded me of a training event we had prior to Iraq. My platoon was selected to go to Hohenfels for IED training. I told my guys don’t drive straight down the lane, deploy, use the terrain. The cadre were shocked by this. Now the perspective of that young Soldier, and me at time was at least 12 years difference, but I will use his version of events. The cadre made us do it again without using the terrain. They wanted to see how we would react. I guess I’m like Captain Kirk, I don’t do well with rigged scenarios.
He told him his story. Told me how he misses Iraq. The camaraderie & me.
Said he took my stroke hard. I didn’t want to say this at the time but this morning, while laying in bed, I wrote a poem, superman is dead. Unfortunately, I didn’t write it down, however, here is the summary.
Superman doesn’t think he’s so super. He suffers just like you. He has days that are gray and filled with gloom. Do you remember the Soldier who killed himself at FOB Prosperity? He took his rifle in a port-a-john and made us all feel tragedy. Later, superman had a discussion with a Sergeant Major who said, “There’s no way I would kill myself. That’s the coward’s way.” Superman just stayed quiet.
There’s a multitude of hurting broken people, Mrs. Doubtfire included. They wear costumes. Wear smiles, but deep down they are clothed with depression. Not every day. More cyclic in nature. Up and down. Maybe in five year increments, choosing to end it all in five minutes.
What if told you that superman was tired of being a hero. He decided to swallow kryptonite last night.
This morning news reads, Superman Committed Suicide.
Where would that leave you?
Having a stroke, I realized how many people believe in the hero in me.
My dad told me a long time ago, “just keep living.” What he meant by that is the older you get, you’ll eventually feel your age. I’m here to tell you, before superman decided to kill himself he heard dad say, “Just keep living.”
Last night, I took stock of all my ailments from nearly 22 years of military service. #20 and last on my list is a word some seldom mention. It’s still taboo. So much so, I will not mention it.
The sergeant major was right in a sense. No matter how dark the night, the yellow sun that shines on you will renew your strength like a Bible scripture.
Superman is just like you, a hero who doesn’t know a hero is depending on you.’
Keep on keeping on, Shep. Though it may be time to sheath the sword and step out of armor, this chapter in your life closes so that the next may open. Don’t forget who you are. Don’t forget where you came from. And never forget where you are going! Thanks for serving with me. I salute you –
You have fought the good fight. You have stayed the course. You have kept the faith.