The Washington Post has a depressing/heartwarming story today about a fallen soldier who loved the Red Sox.
When Justin Allan Rollins learned that he was being deployed to Iraq last year, the soldier had a mission of his own: to see his beloved Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park one last time.
Spec. Rollins saw more than just a game that summer day. He got to meet one of his heroes, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. Ortiz signed a ball for him. Later, in the stands, Rollins turned to his father.
"He said, 'If David Ortiz hits a home run, I can die a happy man in Iraq,' " recalled Kathryn Hanson, a close family friend. "His father thought it was the most eerie thing he had ever heard."
Rollins was killed in Iraq two weeks ago and buried in Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. Ortiz sent an inscribed baseball to be placed inside the coffin and one of his jerseys signed with an inscription for the young soldier.
Okay: I know it's unusual for this site to point out when professional athletes do something good, instead of, say, waste their talent and privilege by being assholes, but I think it's only fair to mention the war — if only in passing — on its anniversary. Four years ago from this very moment (including the time zone change), I was coming to the end of the first day of the invasion. I'd slept five hours total over the previous four days, and that night I got two hours of sleep punctuated by gunfire and a car bomb. That place sucks.
So, for those of us wrapped up in our brackets and pictures of sexy women (this includes me), it probably doesn't hurt to take a moment or two to realize that there are thousands of men and women still stuck in a shitty country with the very real prospect of getting randomly killed by a mortar or improvised bomb at any moment. My best wishes go to our servicemen and women: take care of each other, and come home safely.