Well done. Be thou at peace.

The last 2 weeks has been a roller coaster. As most of you know by now, my brother Tom was killed 14 October while serving in Iraq. Like I told him in the last few minutes I saw his face this week — he may be 1LT Thomas M. Martin to a lot of people, but he was Tom to me. He was every bit the brave and dedicated soldier that the Army honored this week — but was first a son and big brother. He was my first friend in this life, one of the first faces I ever saw – and his story is one I will tell forever and to anyone who will listen.

Some of you knew him. And you understand what a loss this is – for family, for friends, for the Army and our country. Some of you didn’t know Tom – and it’s not too late. His personal journal is online and there are photos of his smile both in the photo albums on my site and others.  

Most everyone who has offered condolences has also offered, “let me know what I can do.” I’ll tell you what you can do. Don’t forget about the soldiers serving away from their friends and families. Don’t forget about the kids that are in harm’s way every day so that our country is safe and free. They are someone’s brother and someone’s daughter and someone’s friend. Most everyone knows someone who knows someone involved in the military or the war. And if you didn’t before – you do now. 

Like I said, it’s been a roller coaster of a time since we found out about Tom 2 weeks ago. Though it’s always unfortunate to meet under such circumstances, we were able to visit with family for several days at my parents’ house in San Antonio. Jeff was able to meet a lot of the extended family and there were endless “Tom stories” to keep everyone entertained. A few photos…

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The service Monday was beautiful. The Patriot Guard were there to honor Tom and protect the service and our family. Eulogies were given by family and friends – and Tom was honored properly. This was but the beginning of a long week. 

I celebrated my 25th birthday on Tuesday. Seth and I reminisced about the last time he was with me on my birthday (when I turned 3) and he blew out my candles and made me cry. 

Wednesday we left for NY. As we flew in to Newburgh, I began to understand how someone could fall in love with a place so beautiful. Pictures didn’t do it justice but the mountains and the fall colors were breathtaking. We met up with Erika’s dad Geoff for dinner at Schade’s Pizza (a Tom favorite and WP classic).

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The burial was Thursday morning at West Point Cemetery. Again, all proper honors were given and Tom is there overlooking the Hudson River and the beautiful grounds of West Point forever. As Tom’s good friend Les put it, “a place where he will be taken care of as long as there is a United States.”

A few photos at West Point…

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During the trip to WP and back – Jason informed us (in the nonchalant way only Jason could…) that we would be taking Ross Perot’s private jet back and forth to services in Cabot on Saturday. We hardly believed this and everyone agreed this was just the kind of thing that Tom and Jason would cook up to get one over on us — but sure enough, this is what greeted us at the airport in San Antonio Saturday morning….

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We all agreed that Tom would have loved it – and I’m sure he was there with us.

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Though nothing could do him justice – the Cabot United Methodist Church sure came close. The service was wonderful – and the lyrics to Blest Be the Tie that Binds never meant anything to me until this last week.

We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

Cabot is Home for my family and was very much Home to Tom. And the church is a huge part of that. There were stories shared and tears shed and I loved seeing and hugging friends from the past that remember Tom as he deserves to be remembered. That day meant a lot to everyone. And the Patriot Guard were there again – to honor Tom.

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While in Cabot, we visited Tom’s caboose and the high school (which admittedly looks very different than when Tom and I attended there!).

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It was a long week but a good one. I know my family has grown together and I’m happy we were able to include those close to Tom as family this last week — Jason and Erika — it wouldn’t have been the same without you.

Things will never be the same and they likely won’t feel “normal” for a very long time – but Tom was well cared for these last two weeks, he was properly honored by his peers and friends, and he’ll be forever remembered for his service and his smile. 

I have carried around a piece of Tom for the last 6 years – that I doubt he ever knew about. You’ve all seen the 20 questions quiz/email that makes the rounds every now and then. Chocolate or vanilla?, Hometown?, What color are your socks?, etc… Tom indulged one day and answered the questions. One of his answers stuck with me and I printed it out and kept it. It’s been either in my wallet or pinned to my bulletin board since then. I sit here now, at my desk at work, and can see the faded piece of paper pinned to my board…  

If you could go through your life again from the beginning, what would you change? I could write a book on this one, but I’ll keep it short by saying I’d study more and screw around less, I’d drive safer, and I would say hi to the million or so people that I passed by every day without talking to.   -Tom

5 thoughts on “Well done. Be thou at peace.

  1. I couldn’t have said it better.   Love you.

  2. Wow!  What a beautiful way to address our last two weeks.   Love you.   Dad

  3. I completely agree. The perfect post.

  4. I’m glad to be part of a terrific family!  Love you all!  Mom

  5. Sarah,

    I found your Xanga site from your MySpace page, and I am so glad that I did.  This post was such an amazing tribute to your brother.  Though I admit Tom and I didn’t do a very good job of keeping in touch after high school, I have so many fond memories of him.  He was one person in high school that was ALWAYS kind to me.  I remember a lot of people teasing me through the years, but Tom was always a true friend.  He brought a lot of joy and light into a LOT of people’s lives, and you need not worry….he will not be forgotten.  EVER.  I have to tell you that when I returned from my honeymoon on October 21, I checked my MySpace account for the first time since the beginning of October.  I can’t tell you how I felt when I saw a message from Tom waiting in my inbox.  Written on October 5, it was a very friendly letter, telling me what he was up to and how excited he was to see everyone at our class reunion this summer.  I was honored and touched that he had wanted to get in touch again but was so saddened that I never got the chance to respond.  I will cherish that MySpace message forever.  It is a true testament to his friendly spirit. 

    Please know that your entire family, Erika, and all of Tom’s friends are in my thoughts and prayers.  I am so sorry I was unable to attend the Cabot memorial service.  I’m sure it was a fitting celebration of Tom’s beautiful life.  Everyone there loved him very much.  Is it still possible for me to contribute the memoral scholarship fund?  Do I just send it to the church?  You can email me at jdodgen79@yahoo.com and let me know the best way to do it, if you’d like.

    Thanks so much again for your post.  I hope more and more people out there read out. 

    Jane (Dodgen) Kunzweiler

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