20 March 2010


Years ago, I worked in suburban Philadelphia at a private, residential school for teenagers who'd been removed by the courts from their families, for reasons of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse. Residents lived in dorm-like cottages, and attended school on grounds. Facilities were excellent, including a gym, cafeteria, swimming pool, infirmary, a staff of degreed therapists, and acres of tree-shaded lawn.

Our student population was co-ed --forty girls and twenty boys. Class sizes varied, averaging 12-15 students per room. I taught biology, environmental studies, math, algebra, and geometry, as well as doing daily counseling with students, individually and in groups, and running the school's nascent computer lab. The school faculty was small, so we often filled in for each other if a teacher was sick, or if a student's needs called the teacher from his/her classroom.

My best friend there was a fellow teacher, Tony Sherman, who taught history and civics. Tony was a model of dedication to excellence in his work, and genuine caring for our students. He was also an officer in the Army Reserve, and on more than one occasion was called to serve on active duty. Tony was the best and truest kind of patriot -- someone who believed in service to his community and his country, and acted on that belief. His was not a vacant, unquestioning intellect. He fulfilled his duty with Quality, while reserving the right to question the validity or practicality of political or military policy. Just as every good citizen-soldier should.

He and I dropped out of touch a few years after I left Philly. It wasn't until yesterday that I heard of him again -- indirectly, from one of our former students who found me on Facebook. She alluded to "bad news", and I quickly Googled Tony's name. He died in Kuwait on 27 August, 2003, of "non-combat-related" injury. Further internet investigation revealed that a suspicious cloud surrounds his death, and the deaths of many others -- a mysterious pneumonia which may be linked to anthrax or other innoculations. There are more questions than answers, which leads me to believe that there's a military coverup going on, another in the cascading scandals permeating Bush's war for oil, profit, and political/economic hegemony in that part of the world. Ironically, today marks the seventh anniversary of our invasion of Iraq during the current conflict there.

My friend, my brother, is dead. When he fell, he was 43 years old, and left behind a wife and an 8-year-old son. When I first met him, he was a Captain. When he died, twelve years later, he was a Lt. Colonel. Far more importantly, he was an inspiration and a role model for literally hundreds of troubled youth, and for his friends as well. He led a compelling, dedicated life. The world is a poorer place without him. On this, the vernal equinox marking the coming of Spring, I salute you, Tony -- and I am joined by all those whose lives you touched so profoundly. You will always be with us.

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