Five years ago tomorrow, the world lost a good man. After I learned about this, I wrote an entry about him in my old blog that his family was gracious enough to ask me to share at his funeral. Well, the old blog is gone, but my good memories of Luke are not, so I am posting it again here, in case you missed it the first time:
I want to tell you all about a former ACE student. His name was Luke Milam. Years after a student graduates, I tend to remember images more than specific events. When I conjure Luke in my mind’s eye, he is standing at the end of one of the long tables in the classroom, because he wasn’t a boy who liked to sit. He would, if he had an assignment to do, but the minute he was finished, he was on his feet, usually surrounded by friends, talking camping, cars, girls, whatever… He didn’t much like school. Of course, that describes the vast majority of ACE kids, but he did well in ACE. Every year, we have a handful of kids who are very successful in that class because they are essentially smart kids, it’s just that no other class has been so suited to their learning style. In ACE, Luke was a great student. One of the best. These are the kids you know will succeed out in “the real world” because they have what it takes as long as they find something they love. Luke graduated in 1999. It wasn’t the best year to be a senior at Columbine, but it was what it was. I have come to understand that Luke found something he loved: being a hospital corpsman in the Navy, caring for injured Marines through three tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Purple Heart, two Combat Action ribbons, two Good Conduct medals, a National Defense Service Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and two Sea Service Deployment ribbons. What did I tell you? The kid was bound to do well once he graduated.
I’ll be seeing Luke again this Thursday, or, more accurately, I will be seeing his flag-draped coffin at his funeral. He was killed last Tuesday by a rocket near Musa Qula, Afghanistan.
My ninth-graders and I have just finished Antigone, an ancient play in which a proud ruler’s hubris prevents him from listening to the will of the people in his kingdom or the counsel of wise men and seers, which leads to his downfall. The play also asserts that to lie unburied and unwept when the battle is done is the cruelest fate for a warrior. I understand why Luke was sent to Afghanistan better than I understand why he was sent to Iraq, and he was a healer more than a warrior, but one thing is sure: He will be buried with full honors, wept for by his family, friends, comrades-in-arms, and at least one former teacher.
In pace requiescat, Luke.