My nephew is in the Old Guard (Army) and will be in the honor guard at the White House tomorrow morning, apparently standing quite close to His Holiness! Look for a strapping Irish lad, 6'2", with icy silvery-blue eyes....
He served with distinction for his year in Baghdad, as a sniper assigned to SIT ON TOP OF or walk NEXT TO Bradleys and other armored vehicles during neighborhood patrols, and to pick off anyone who fired at his group. He held two friends as they died. He admits looking into the eyes of 6 enemy combatants as he shot and killed them. He received an Army Commendation Medal with a special "V" for valor after being pinned down in a bombed-out crater/wall with 4 friends, one critically wounded by enemy fire, for several hours. In order to get a clear shot at the nest of insurgents who were firing at them, one of them would have to come up out of the hole and from behind the cover of the wall, run several yards around the wall, and take the shot. When it was clear no help was coming anytime soon, he ordered everyone else to stay put, made the move - and made the kills - to get he and his friends out of their position and back to safety, and to get the wounded soldier medical help.
All of this was done during his 20th year.
When he got home, his CO recommended him for a special tour with the Old Guard, the best of the Army's best, known for its troops' valor. They perform ceremonial duties at Arlington National Cemetery, guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and are responsible for the protection of The Military District Washington DC. (The Marines get to take care of the President.)
Hoo-Ahh, Boy. Your "Auntie Kiss"* is proud of you.
Oh yeah. After my sister's divorce, what little Mass attendance there was stopped. He started going again while stationed in Baghdad. He doesn't talk about it, even with me. He just goes...and pins anyone down with a baleful stare from those clear eyes if they try to pry, or worse yet, tease him about it.
*(He doesn't talk like that anymore. But those unearthly icy-silver-blue eyes sparkling at you from a toddler's sweet face...unforgettable.)