For this Memorial Day, I planned to profile one of the uncountable heroes this great country has had. I hoped for some unknown who had achieved something personal, something wonderful in its own right. I wanted to share his or her story with the world to make our troops more real, more like the boy or girl next door rather than some GI Jane or Joe way over “there”.
I did some research. Looked for names and biographies of regular men and women who served this country in the ultimate way – by giving their lives. I came upon a list put out by the Wall Street Journal that included names and 1/2 inch square headshots. Click on a name and it takes you to that soldier’s page.
I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I’d find a plethora of information on those personal pages and be able to write up my story. Instead, the soldiers’ pages contained the same basic information as on the list from page one. The soldier’s name and birthplace, their photo – larger now, the location of their service and their rank. Sadly, there was no information about who these soldiers were as people. Regular stop-over-for-coffee people.
Though limited information was given, one name intrigued me. Sgt. Nicholas J. Aleman, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Brooklyn, New York. My hometown. Here was the boy I would profile. Look at me calling him a “Boy”. He was all of 24, still a cub and yet he’d trained, fought and died for his country. That’s a man. A hero.
But I could find out nothing about him except that he’d come from a military family. I did about a dozen searches and kept coming up with the same lines about this young man. He was a Marine Reservist, had been assigned to Camp Lejeune for deployment processing and then had been in Afghanistan, supporting combat operations when he was killed.
Not much of a bio for a hero.
Eventually, I did find a few local articles about this young man. Still, I couldn’t help wonder why it should be so hard to learn about the people who have sacrificed themselves for freedom.
I even went to YouTube and searched his name. There’s someone else out there with the same name. He’s a musician. I scrolled down and then I saw something that told me at a glance that this boy was loved. It was a home video taken as the casket of Sgt. Nicholas J. Aleman, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y. arrived at church for his funeral. The title of the video was simply: R.I.P. Buddy
I cried for that young man and for the family and friends he left behind. He was loved. He laughed and teased just like the rest of us. He hurt, he cared, he shared. Unlike the rest of us, however, he dared. Sgt. Nicholas J. Aleman, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y went into battle – knowing each moment could be his last – and all because he believed in his country.
R.I.P. Buddy. We cannot thank you enough. We cannot thank enough those who have gone before or who will go in the future.
And yet, something disturbing about the video has haunted me since I first located it. It was posted six months ago as of this writing. Check the number of views it’s had. Seven is the number I saw when I first clicked on it. Hopefully there are more now. Three minutes, and thirty-three seconds. It’s only a procession and a salute. There are no bells and whistles, no Hollywood celebrities or gyrating dancers. There’s just a soldier coming home.
Three minutes and thirty-three seconds. I watched. I ached for his mother. I cried for his buddies, for his military family and for those of us who too often fail to appreciate that which allows us to be who we are.
At least on this one day, we need to remember what it took for these brave men and women to leave their families, leave their homes and everything familiar to go wherever they were sent, without question, with ofttimes fair-weather support from their own countrymen to regularly risk and give their lives.
On this one day, can more than 7 of us view the video, R.I.P. Buddy and share the grief? Can we, just for a moment, consider the pain and pride of the family and friends of Sgt. Nicholas J. Aleman, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y and those like him who we will never know?
R.I.P. Buddy. And thank you.
I was really touched by your blog and watching the hearse come down the street in silence tugged at my heart. Thank you for sharing a special post for memorial day.
How sad. When you think of the thousands and thousands of men and women who died for our country and the thousands of relatives and friends who knew them. This is the day to remember them all and to thank them for all they’ve done for us and our country. We should remember them more often.
What a great tribute, Debora. Your post made me cry for this young man and all those others who have sacrificed all for our country.
This was a good tribute. I’m glad you picked somebody who is virtually unknown. Buddy needs people to remember him and be thankful for the sacrifice he made. This is what our country is about.
I felt the same way as I watched the video. Thank you for watching it. When I did, I thought of him and all the other service men and women we will never know.
So true! We should remember them more often. I just read a blog where flag-lined streets were described and I wondered how long ago that might have been. We hardly acknowledge the service of our military anymore and I just don’t understand why.
I’m sorry I made you cry but I’m happy you shed a tear for these heroes. Thanks for coming by and commenting!
I couldn’t believe just how ‘unknown’ he was/is! I did find a Facebook page dedicated to him, though, and learned he has siblings. He went into the military straight from high school. Amazing how focused and determined this young man was. Not to mention brave. Thanks for stopping by.
I read an article of a service man from Shelter Island who had died. As they were transporting his body on the ferry someone played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. That tore me up.
Unfortunately one can’t remember the names of all who have died but we can remember that they are there and what they gave.
Oh wow, Donna. How emotional that lone bagpipe playing must have been. It would have torn me up as well. And you are so right. We can at least remember they are there, giving for us and for freedom, no matter the risk. We owe them so very much.
Thanks for stopping over at my place here on the web. 🙂
I read your article. You were right. He was loved by everyone who had ever met him. Im a friend of the families, and just wanted to say thank you for recognizing him. I know everyone feels the same way… So thank you
It was an honor. I’m pleased to know you found this post and felt good about it. I was so sad to realize how little we know about these brave men and women and had to do something in my own little way.
Thank you for coming by and letting me connect with you as someone who knew this young man.
Thank you so much Debora for taking the time to recognize Nick. I can help you make him more human. Nick was this skinny little red head covered in freckles from head to toe. He took an interest in architecture when he was in high school. He liked photography (or at least told you how a picture should be taken). He was a huge animal lover! His first frog was an albino pac-man frog..which died on his first deployment. His mother cried because she thought he would be heart broken, so I called to give him the news and he laughed out loud and said I LOVE MY MOM! He would always pinch my cheeks telling me how much he loves them, he wore sneakers on the beach…and hes one of NYs most recognized graffiti artist. And this passing month, his sister proudly accepted his degree from Fordham University in his absence. And by his grave she left him a Fordham teddy bear.
Wow. Your comment touched me deeply. What a great man Nick was. We knew that from how he served his country, but now you’ve done what I hoped and made him dimensional and real to those of us who never met him. You mention how he’s one of NY’s most recognized graffiti artists. I will have to check around to see if I can find some websites showing his work.
How gracious and gentle he sounds – and teasing. I can tell by the tone of your note that you knew him well and loved him very much. And I pictured the teddy bear at his grave. Such a lovely and heart-wrenching tribute. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful details about Nick.
I knew him very well, he was one of my best friends! We met in 10th grade biology, we sat next to each other and have been friends ever since. his tag name is SURE .. You will easily find more on him now. Thank you again. xoxo
Thank you so much for writing this Debora! I knew Nick very well, became my best friend and so much more within the last year he lived in New York. Impacted me in more ways than I could ever thank him for. Everyone that knew him remembers him well and trust me he will never be forgotten here in New York City.
Nick’s presents and spirit still live through almost every corner in the streets of NY and constantly put a HUGE smile on my face when I see “SURE” with a tear at times.
Your absolutely right, he was most definitely a man, regardless of his age.
Last night I couldnt sleep and I was thinking of my brother more than the usual so I began to google his name and I found your blog. I attached your site to his fb page and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to write a little bit about my brother. Its a great feeling to know that he will always be remembered by so many friends, Marines and family. My brother was the youngest of the 3 of us, there is myself and my oldest sister Jennifer. Nick joined the Corp right after high school as he knew he would since the 6th grade. He became an intel analyst and after 6 yrs of active duty he decided to go to college to pursue his career. But always in his heart he knew military service was for him so he became a reservist and a year later deiced to volunteer a 3rd combat tour to Afganistan. Despite everyone’s opinion for Nick to finish college first he decided to go because it was “his duty” as he would say. He left in Oct 10 to never return. I know if my brother were alive today he wouldn’t do a thing differently because he loved his country and his corp. Our family takes comfort in knowing that he died doing what he loved! Nicholas was such a complex human being he had his military life and his graffiti life which he loved so much. He was the most wonderful friend and brother and would do anything for his family and friends. He was as Eme says an animal lover and the greatest uncle to his nieces and nephews. Once again thank you so much for taking the time to honor Nick, my famiy truly appreciates it.
Oh my God. This was beautiful and to read the comments written by people and family of Nick’s makes it more so. You’ve truly captured the intention of Memorial Day.
I started to cry reading these tributes to Nick. As someone else noted, tags really do work and look how they connected Nick’s family and friends to this post. I’m awed reading the comments about this young man’s spirit and personality. What a wonderful guy. And now he’ll be remembered by all of us who followed this blog about him He’ll not be forgotten.
All across America, a soldier is in our hearts. A stranger is no longer a stranger because we have glimpsed a part of him and know that he has given us so much more in return. The skinny red head to a man of only 24. Thank you for this post. Thank you to Nick and to his family. R.I.P. Buddy. You shall be remember.
Debora, this is amazing! You’ve brought him back to “life” through your blog and connected people that may not have been otherwise. Doree’s right. We all have a soldier in our hearts whether from the present or past, and knowing that, helps keep our own hearts strong and our conviction to freedom ever present. Way to go, girl!
Debora, you are a wonderful person. What a terrific idea you had, and how nice that it has reached out and touched his family. Bless you my dear! May we all be as open-hearted.
I have been trying to reply to these beautifully touching comments but have found myself unable to find the right words.
Eme, Rita and Stephanie, I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to know you appreciated this tiny tribute to Nick. I feel like I know him well now, like he was a friend. I, too, am an animal lover and my husband is a professional photographer. Had we ever had the good fortune to meet Nick, we would have enjoyed speaking about these things. And my daughter would have been fascinated by Nick’s art.
As you can see from the comments from others here, Nick will always be remembered. Heart and personality have been layered by all of you, making him someone the rest of us can ‘see’ and I thank you for that.
I hope, with future posts, both here and elsewhere, the same can be done for other brave and dedicated men and women who have given so much for freedom.
How wonderful to know your words touched hearts and maybe helped to heal them.
I’m so proud of you.