No, Michael Elm is not a family member, a friend, or even an acquaintance; he is a stranger to me. I never met him and I didn't even know his name before October 17th, 2011. Michael was a soldier in the US Army and he gave his life for his country on October 14th, 2011.
I have the privilege of knowing Michael's aunt and uncle, both of whom are very dear to my heart. I went to Michael's Celebration of Life on Sunday to give them my condolences and my support. I have found that you can learn a lot about someone who you've never met just by hearing all of the stories about their life through their friends and family.
Michael was very loved. He was funny and witty and did extraordinary things with his life. He was very close to his family. He knew how to have a good time. He loved Peanut M&M's. He stood for what he thought was right and never wavered. He died at the age of 25 but he lived far beyond his years. He was a true solider to the end and from what I've heard, Michael wouldn't have had it any other way.
Early last week, I found myself frustrated with the fact that our soldiers are still over in Afghanistan. I thought about how this could've been avoided if he were here on American soil instead of over seas. But after hearing about how much he loved the Army and about how joining shaped Michael's life and made him the man that he was, somehow I'm not as frustrated as I was a week ago.
I have a lot of respect for all of our soldiers and their families. I can't imagine what it would be like to live with the "what if" scenarios that they all have to live with on a daily basis. It takes a lot for parents and loved ones to let their soldiers go and fight for our freedom; knowing that they might not return. But our world is a changed world, a better world, because our soldiers are willing to fight and stand for what they believe.
Michael may be fallen but he will not be forgotten. His life, his stories and his humor will continue to be lived out in everyone's memory of him. I may not have known Michael personally, but I can tell you one thing, I will never look at bag of Peanut M&M's the same way ever again.
RIP Spc. Michael Davis Elm (1985 - 2011) ~ Fallen but not Forgotten