I met Rick sometime in early 2004. We were assigned to the 54th Engineers in Bamberg, Germany, and had recently returned from Iraq. The unit asked for volunteers to attend Sapper Leader Course (or Sapper School) at Fort Leonard Wood, and about thirty Soldiers jumped at the chance. After two months of intense PT, several 12-mile ruck marches, a couple Land Nav courses and a 10 mile boot run, twenty of us went to Sapper School. Rick had the heart and the guts required to complete Sapper School. Tough, always positive, and damn loyal to his friends, Rick was the kind of guy who'd see you struggling and offer to carry some of your gear.
When we graduated Sapper School, we found that we had about a week before our flight back to Germany - typical SNAFU, but our battalion commander was so impressed with the fact that 95% of our class completed Sapper School that he gave us an extended four-day pass (translation - free, uncharged leave). Rick and I rented a car and drove to Texas to visit our girlfriends. Definitely one of the good times.
Back in Bamberg, Rick and I were assigned to different companies, but we ran into each other at the Irish Pub fairly often.
We deployed again in 2005 to Ramadi, Iraq. Again, we didn't see each other all that much, but when we'd run into each other in the motor pool or the chow hall we'd usually stop and shoot the breeze for a few minutes.
I left active duty at the end of 2006, and lost touch with a lot of my friends and comrades for quite a while. Since I joined Facebook, I've started to reconnect with those guys, and that's how I found that Rick had been taken from us. I didn't realize at first how he had died, as I had been out in the field and hadn't seen that much news. We were waiting to start our trip home, when I had the chance to get online using my phone. That's when I read someone's status update, which led me to look up the news article identifying the casualties from the attack.
I was very angry at first. This isn't the first friend I've lost in this war, but I have to say: I'm tired of seeing my friends' names in the news. I am deeply saddened, and I extend my sympathies to Rick's widow and his family. The families of our veterans have paid a price that most folks refuse to understand. It's a choice that every service member makes, knowing that our family could be put in that position. It's small consolation to say that Rick died doing a job he believed in and loved. We'd love to have Rick back; if we could rewind the clock to where he never joined the Army and he'd still be with us today. But it doesn't work that way. I think we have to take the whole package - the man we knew as SSG Richard Tieman, or Rick or just simply "T" would not be the leader, comrade, friend, son, or husband that he was without his military service. You just can't separate that. So in life, as in death.
Goodbye, Rick. We'll miss you. Thanks for carrying our load for a little while, for being part of our lives, and for letting us be a part of yours. Thanks for your service to our great country. Thanks for being my friend.
Jason "SSG D" Deckman