Monday, February 1, 2010

Freedom to Be at Ease, Courtesy of Steven Towery

It's a simple tribute left on a popular social networking site: "Steven Towery, PVT, 82nd Airborn, US Army, injured, lost his left foot to a land mine in Afghanistan...." The message offers few details of the event, so the reader must surmise that Private Towery was fulfilling his duties to seek out militants and terrorists, or perhaps to offer aid as the Afghan people seek to rebuild their war-torn country.

As I considered Private Towery's plight, I discovered that Afghanistan has been described in the media as the "most heavily mined country in the world." Estimates have placed the number of these deadly devices still lurking under the surface of this country's rugged landscape at anywhere from 400,000 to tens of millions. It was in this unforgiving maze of mines and mountains that on December 26, 2009, Private Steven Towery took a single, errant step that will change his body and his life forever.

December 26 was, of course, the day after Christmas -- the Saturday of a three-day weekend for most Americans. At ease, we were happily recuperating from a variety of indulgences. Immeasurable amounts of leftover holiday ham and pumpkin roll met with final standing, either digesting in someone's contented belly or scraped away into the trash. All the mounds of ripped and wadded wrapping paper had been cleared away. And, our children were at ease, removed from the previous day's frenetic feasting and gift-giving, now entertained by millions of blinking, beeping electronic toys. In complete contrast, Steven Towery was surely not at ease as he walked a path devoid of Christmas leftovers or wrapping paper. Instead, the road he traveled was filled with danger and treachery. Whatever the assignment, his sacrifice was one of countless similar sacrifices that ultimately enable each of us to be at ease in our surroundings.

So, thank you, Steven Towery -- because the next mile I run, I'll be at ease in my shoes. Meanwhile, I'll hope for the speedy realization of the day when you once again feel at ease in yours.


  1. My husband, SSG Kyle Stipp, is an EOD tech in the Army. In December of '08, he was doing an investigation on a suicide bomber when a vehicle ran through the outer cordon and blew himself up. The driveshaft of the vehicle went through my husband's thigh. He walks with a cane, but they tell him he will never be able to run again. Also, my good friend, SSgt David Flowers, who is an Air Force EOD tech, stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan in May of '09. He lost one leg below the knee and his other leg was severely injured. If you look up Wiis for Warriors, you can learn a little about him. Thank you for what you are doing.

  2. Megan, my heart goes out to your husband, SSG Kyle Stipp, your good friend, SSgt Flowers, and you. Though no one can ever fill their shoes, I'll try to imagine standing in them through the next miles. Please convey my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for their courage!


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