Another person has died in Iraq.

His name is Matt Baylis, he was days from his 21st birthday, and he used to live two doors away from me. While I never knew him well, he was the younger brother of one of my brother’s close friends. My brother saw him grow up, join the military, and go on to serve in Iraq.

My dad once told me that one of the hardest things about growing up is accepting that you will know more people who will pass away. The unfortunate fact is that while this is true, I find myself knowing a disproportionate number of people who die in senseless and tragic ways, rather than naturally.

Matt Baylis will be another name in the list of over 3,400 soldiers that have died in Iraq. When I was taking my quasi-grad classes, a professor used to post the list (I believe from the NY Times) of military people that lost their lives in Iraq. The visual effect was shocking.

Every day, we read another article proclaiming that nine people died in Iraq, five people were in a helicopter crash – people become statistics. We forget that these are individual people, who left behind families and friends, to serve as heroes and protect our safety. In today’s world, we forget who heroes really are.

We just celebrated Memorial Day, which most of us view as another three day weekend. I spent it with one of my closest friends, whose husband passed away in a tragic helicopter crash just a few years ago. I read an article the other day, which reminded me that Memorial Day shouldn’t be just one day – it isn’t just a three day weekend, or a day for big sales. We need to better honor those who put their lives on the line for us, like Matt Baylis, for our freedom and well-being.

He was a true hero, and will always be remembered. Rest in peace, Matt.

And a forever tribute to another true hero, Lt. Pete Ober, who I miss more every single day.