Godspeed, Capt. Kevin Landeck

Capt. Kevin Landeck

Capt. Kevin Landeck, killed by an I.E.D. in Iraq, February 2, 2007

And so another brave and confident young man, set out to change the world, is instead delivered to his parents and young wife inside a box. He was buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery, Wheaton, Illinois.

Kevin Landeck grew up here in Wheaton; he attended the same high school as my oldest son, though a few years earlier. I never had the privilege of knowing the young man.

But now I wish I had. Everybody liked him, and his fellow soldiers wanted to serve in his platoon. There is no higher compliment for a leader in the armed forces.

There are so many thoughts and feelings that run through me when I read about young people, like Kevin, who take the kind of risks that most of us only dream about. Things like, “heroic”, and “a better man than I”. And then I think about his parents, and his young wife, and the children he’ll never have.

Oftentimes, that’s when the tears begin to fall. Such a damn shame.

A small comfort, but Capt. Landeck believed in what he was doing, and was trying to make the world safer for freedom-loving people everywhere. His father Richard, quoted in the Chicago Tribune:

“He told me, `We go down the road in our Humvees, and there are roadside bombs going off all around us,’” Richard Landeck said from his Wheaton home. “He said, `Dad, quite honestly, we’re scared. What I wanted to do is to scare them … Since we own the night with our night vision goggles, I wanted to take a few of our guys, go out at night and watch and see who’s planting these bombs, and take them out. The military denied me permission to do that. Why are they doing that?’”

“I said, `I can’t answer that, Kevin. I don’t know.’”

Neither do I. And now Kevin is gone. Too bad the military — that Kevin loved so much — put shackles on him before sending him into battle.

Kevin Landeck and his new best friend

For his parents and newlywed bride, the rest of their lives “After Kevin Was Gone” now begin. Every single event that happens to them in the future will be tossed into the After Kevin Was Gone bin in their minds. Every. Single. One.

That’s a hell of a way to live, when you had a brave son / husband who just wanted to do a little good in the world. A hell of a way to live.

Rest In Peace, Kevin. You were just a kid, doing what kids do, and making us proud, even those of us who never knew you.

Bethany Landeck salues her husband's coffin at his funeral Feb. 12

I often go past St. Michael’s Cemetery, and know of another young man buried there, Lance Cpl. Nicholas Larson, who was killed in the battle for Fallujah in November 2004. I went to his memorial service, with my oldest son. The line snaked out to the end of the parking lot.

And so I now have two posthumously-adopted young men that I feel I owe something to, and so will continue to pay my respects periodically, by stopping by once in a while, pausing to reflect on their lives and what they accomplished in their short time here, and pushing little American flags into the sacred ground under which their bodies lie.

I feel compelled to honor their memories as sons of Wheaton, and their ultimate sacrifice. I want the parents and families of these heroic people to know there are lots of us out here, a “silent majority”, who are just awed by the lives they led. We pray for them, and we think of how hard it is for them to leave loved ones stateside and go live in a place that has sandstorms and camel spiders the size of small children, all because they see a job that needs doing. We appreciate that there are still young people who honor heroism, and valor, and who understand that freedom isn’t free.

Whittier students watch the procession. (Tribune photo by Antonio Perez) Feb 12, 2007

God Bless You, one and all.

A part of me, though, can’t help wondering how many young people we’re sacrificing on the Altar of the Usual Political Meddling and the Lack of Will to Win. Because of preening cowards, overfed blowhards, and preachy know-nothings, some of our best young people become I.E.D. fodder for losers and scumbags that couldn’t last 10 minutes fighting a real war. Real people lose real loved ones this way. It’s enough to turn my stomach. But that’s a thought for another day.

Rest In Peace, Capt. Kevin Landeck.

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UPDATE: Minor edits and two photos added 3/7/2007. Added ‘Profiles in Badassery’ link 1/25/2012.

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