A Marine returns from action


I’ve never really taken the time to properly recognize Veterans Day, which is on November 11, one week from tomorrow. 

Now I hope none of our readers takes this to mean that I don’t appreciate the sacrifice that all the members of our armed forces have made while defending our freedom. I’ve always found it amazing that the people who enlist in the Marines/Army/Navy/Air Force are usually the same people who were unable to get into college or find a good job after graduating from high school. These same men and women are the ones who step up to protect us in times of conflict.

In short, they serve so that we don’t have to. They are simply the best of us. And, even in times of war, they are forgotten by the typical American all too frequently. 

When my nephew Beau told me he was going to enlist in the Marines in 2010, I had very mixed emotions. 

On the one hand, I knew that our country was at war and that (at the time I held out hope that it would end soon) if it didn’t end quickly, there was a very good chance he would see combat. And this worried me more than you can imagine. 

On the other hand, I knew that Beau would be a great Marine. He was always in great shape. He was the only one in his family that made his bed every morning. And, unlike his two sisters (sorry, girls, but you know it’s true), he rarely complained about doing his chores. 

I also knew he was tough. Despite being one of the smallest players on the team, he played football at Acadiana High School. While he was there, he earned the nickname “The Waterboy” because he was known for being one of the hardest hitters on the team (like Adam Sandler’s character in the movie). His size kept him from starting but he never quit until an injury sidelined him for his senior season. 

I’ve known Beau since the day he was born on Jan. 6, 1992, and I got to watch him grow up. The same was true for his two sisters, Ashley and my godchild, Chelsea. I’ve been a fixture at their house for every holiday, birthday and get together from the time they were born up until today. And frankly, being a lifelong bachelor, I was always appreciative of their parents — Shawn and Abbie — for letting me love their children as though they were my own. 

As they grew up, Beau had it pretty rough. Being the youngest of the three, his two sisters gave him plenty of grief. However, one thing I always noticed about Beau was that he always had such a good heart. 

I can remember a night after Hurricane Lily when Shawn and Abbie had at least 20 people sleeping at their house. The power was out in most of Lafayette, but their family lived right next to a hospital so they were one of the first to have their’s restored. When I arrived, it was late and every bed, sofa or anyplace that had a cushion was occupied. 

As I looked around, I felt someone tugging at my arm. It was Beau who was 10 at the time. 

“Uncle Howie, you can sleep in my bed if you don’t mind me sleeping on the floor next to you,” he said. 

Looking back I feel pretty selfish, but I was more than happy to take him up on his offer at the time. 

When I learned he was going to the Middle East, memories like these really tugged at my heart. And up until he left last January, the thought of him going to war really didn’t seem real.

But it got real quick.  

The only contact I’ve had with him over the past few months has been on Facebook and he really can’t talk much about what’s going on over there. What I do know is that he has become a great Marine. 

He is currently serving with Special Forces and part of what those guys do requires that they grow a full, very thick beard. Though I really don’t like to think about it, this is obviously so that they can blend in with the local population. This made me realize that Beau was in a dangerous place and he would often be in situations that would  put him in harm’s way. 

For the last several months, every time I would watch the local news and the anchorman would start off a story with “An Acadiana soldier has died in combat...” my heart would sink into my stomach. I can’t even begin to think how the parents of fallen soldiers feel upon getting this awful news. 

May God bless all of them. 

The good news is that Beau is flying back to the United States today, Sunday,  Nov. 3. His parents are flying over to meet him and, hopefully, he’ll be back in Lafayette during his stay. I can’t wait to visit with him and, though I know he may not have the time, I hope he gets the chance to come visit Crowley, maybe even stay at my house for an evening.

You can sleep in my bed this time, Beau. The floor sounds just fine to me.


Howell Dennis is a native of Lafayette, La. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington where he graduated in journalism and public relations.

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