What We Lost at the Navy Yard

The headline said that no military members died in the Navy Yard Shootings. Much was said about the gunman’s military service, but CBS News promised that all of the victims were civilians.

Then my husband called me from three different numbers. “I didn’t want you to see this on the news, Honey,” he paused. “But Marty Bodrog was killed at the Navy Yard.”

Marty Bodrog. Marty Bodrog?

I burst into tears. Loud tears. Ugly tears. And my husband murmured Oh Honeyhoneyhoneyhoneyhoney into my ear.

Because we are only two of the thousands of people that know that nothing bad should ever happen to the Marty Bodrogs of the world -- or any of the other 11 workers killed at the Navy Yard shooting.

No gunman should shoot down such a dedicated worker on a Monday.

No senseless act of violence should take someone’s soul mate away.

Nothing should stop the Marty Bodrogs of the world from helping their daughters buy their first cars, or taking pictures at their graduations, or dandling future grandchildren on their knees.

Because even though Marty wasn’t wearing a uniform when he died, he was as marked by his military service as anyone I have ever known. Don’t they get that?

Marty is the person you should think of when you think of people in the military. Not the gunman. Marty.

Because Marty was always one of those solid souls that make up so much of our active duty force. If you have spent any time in the military, you know a Marty, don’t you?  Have you ever lost one?

When I first met Marty, he and Melanie lived across the street from us in Sasebo, Japan. While our little girls played tea party with cups of water, Marty tried gently to teach me to make good coffee with beans he ground himself.

Marty was known in the neighborhood for being one of the last guys to get home at night.

“He has to make everything right for the crew before he leaves the ship,” Melanie told me, with her baby over her shoulder. “Everything.”

She got him completely. He understood her. They came back to the States and got involved in their church. He taught Sunday school, for heaven’s sake.

When he retired from the Navy after 22 years, Marty put on a suit and tie and went back to the same job working for the Navy. Making things right. Doing what everyone needed him to do. Coming home to his wife and three daughters.

Because that is the kind of person we have in the Navy. We have Marty Bodrogs.

We just don’t have enough of them.

We don’t have enough Marty Bodrogs to lose even one of them. We have work for them to do while they are in the Navy. We have work for them to do when they leave the Navy.

That isn’t the story being told right now. We have a few lines about the 12 innocent people who died in the Navy yard -- some of them veterans just like Marty.

But the military story is about the gunman: Did he have PTSD? Did his military service teach him where to shoot? Was the Navy lax in security screenings?

And I want to physically pull the story back, back, back to the real story: we had a Marty among us. Somehow we managed to attract a Marty and keep a Marty and have Marty teach other people to be Martys.

Military life moves so fast and faces change so often that we don’t have a way to recognize the Marty Bodrogs that move among us.

But oh, how we miss them when they are gone -- and leave a huge and gaping space behind.

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