Monday, May 15, 2006

Shane Mahaffee

I can't even believe I am writing this message, but our dear brother Shane has passed away. He fought as hard as he could, but he couldn't do it any longer. thank you for all your prayers and thoughts. now, we have to take care of his wife and kids in the way that he would have wanted it.

I came into work this morning and received this email from Shane's sister-in-law Patti, who'd been providing updates on his condition.

It felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. I'm absolutely heartbroken about now.

I spent four hours with Shane at the hospital, and was the last of the "Dirty Dozen" (our nickname for the group of IRR officers who were at activated at Ft. Jackson and in the SOCOM CA course Ft. Bragg together) to see him alive. Despite the pain, his spirits remained high, and the doctors seemed confident that he would eventually make a full recovery.

Shane was a true patriot who loved his country, believed in the mission in Iraq, and wanted to make whatever contribution he could. Shane was also a natural leader. As a cadet, I once heard that the Israeli Army used to base their promotions based upon how one's peers responded to a simple question: "Would you follow CPT X into combat?" Although this story may be apocryphal, I don't think there was a single officer in those barracks who would not have answered affirmatively in Shane's case. I was at his bedside at the Combat Support Hospital when the MNF-I Command Sergeant Major came to visit Shane. On the notepad provided by the hospital staff, he wrote "I need to get better and get back with my team," and "This job is not done!"

In others, this would have come across as false bravado. In Shane, it was a mark of his true character.

On the surface, Shane appeared to be a caricature of a Chicago criminal defense attorney -- tough, direct, and profane. But he was also be incredibly generous and kind. He never hesitated to help a fellow officer or soldier who had a problem. When he called home and spoke to his two children (a four year old daughter and an 18-month old son) he transformed into something entirely different, assuming a child's voice as he asked "Sweetie, tell Da-da what you did today?" or "Are you trying to trick Da-da?"

As I type these words, I'm looking at a picture of my own son David, now four months old. The highest tribute I can think to share with you is that I believe I could do far worse if I managed to be raise him to have Shane's best attributes, or if I could be as good a father as Shane was to his children.

I can't imagine what Jen and his family must be going through. My sincerest prayers and condolences go out to the entire Mahaffee family.

I'm fine, and still safe, but this really sucks.

I wish I could be more eloquent, but am too overwhelmed just now.