Friday, August 10, 2012

Taking a Bullet That Was Meant For You

Capt. Matthew Patrick Manoukian, USMC.

My friend Pete lost his beloved son this week. He was killed in Afghanistan.

There are no words to express the sorrow of his family, nor the debt we owe to the young man. The story of this family is a truly American one.

"Pete" is Socrates Peter Manoukian, Superior Court Judge for the State of California. His father was a survivor of the genocide in Armenia. His grandmother worked as a domestic and told her son, Pete's father: "You will go to medical school at the American University in Beirut." And that is what Pete's father did.

When Pete was just a year old, the family came to the United States where his father became a resident in orthopedics, finally settling in Los Altos, California, where he set up his medical practice.

Pete had the patriotism that is so joyful in first generation Americans, and hoped to join the Marines when he graduated with our class from Los Altos High. A congenital hip disease kept him out of the service, and sent him back to the books. He went to UCLA, then to law school. Then became a judge.

He and his wife Patti, who is also a judge, had three boys. They cared for Pete's elderly father until his recent death. Their eldest son, Matthew, had his own dream to become a U.S. Marine, and was able to make it come true.

When Matthew was deployed overseas, everyone who loved the Manoukians--and that's a lot of people--worried with them about their boy. And last night, the Marines came to the Manoukians home bringing with them the awful news.

It made me remember that when I was about four years old, one of the neighborhood boys told me my father had been "in the war." I didn't think that could be true, since my father had never talked about this, but the little boy said "ask him." So I did, and when he said he had I said something children say, like, "Wow, Dad. That must have been exciting." I only knew war from TV and the movies.

My father looked away and said something I have never forgotten, because it was my father in a rare unedited moment.  "No," he said. "It is not exciting. In war, men go through the pockets of the dead and steal the gold from their teeth. War is a terrible thing."

I remember standing there, looking at him, and not being able to understand what he had just said to me. But his words have stayed with me all my life. My father knew. Because he had seen it. 

And yet there is real evil in the world and there are truly evil men. Even with my heavy heart I know our young men must always be ready to stand against them. Bless Matt Manoukian for his service.

Often, in the last year of my father's life he would get a distant look in his eyes and say: "No one hates war more than a soldier."  

He was almost right. The ones who may hate war even more are a soldier's family.

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Claudia said...

Beautifully put Robin.

Ginny (Gilmore) Brown said...

Right you are, Robin. Thank you for posting this. I know Peter and Patti will agree with your statement and appreciate your tribute. This was Matthew's third or fourth deployment; it's time we brought our kids home.

Janet Grunst said...

I am so sorry to hear of the young man's death in service to our nation. As a mom of sons who also have and are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can relate. We are not supposed to outlive our children. My prayers go out on behalf of Matthew's family and friends. Thank you for a touching tribute to all that makes America great. Semper Fi!

monkeysmama said...

Thank you for this post and for your support of the Manoukian family. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to suffer the loss of a child let alone one in combat. Our thoughts are with the Manoukian family and their friends stateside and downrange.

Robin Chapman said...

The Manoukian family is rich in courage and they are facing this as they have throughout history: with reconciliation in their hearts and support for those they love and resolve for all they hold dear. I admire them more than ever now, seeing how they are celebrating Matt's life instead of placing blame and allowing themselves to hate. I wish I could be more like them.