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When a Warrior Falls

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When a warrior falls

I pray for no more youth

To perish before its prime;

That Revenge and iron-heated War

May fade with all that has gone before

Into the night of time.

AESCHYLUS, Poet (525 BC – 456 BC)

Poet Aeschylus wrote this mourning the death of his brother, Cynegeirus. The brothers and their sister fought to defend Athens against the invading Persian army at the Battle of Marathon. Greek mythology asserts that Cynegeirus literally clung by his teeth to his fleeing opponent’s ship, when he was no longer able to use his hands.

Cynegeirus was a warrior. A warrior is more than just a fighter, a soldier. A warrior risks all for the moral fight. Being a warrior requires a bravery that few possess.

Sam Jackman was a warrior. How else do you explain a young man who fought acute myeloid leukemia? Fought it twice.

In doing so, Sam became the emblem of a community that never gives up on one of its own. He didn’t choose the fight. He chose how to fight it.

And Montgomery County fought alongside him.

How else do you explain the outpouring that a community had for someone they hardly had the chance to know? How else do explain the countless fundraisers to support the Jackman family? How else do you explain the grade school children –– “Sam’s Army” — who collected coins, cans, and cookies to give to the cause?

How else do you explain students from Crawfordsville and Southmont wearing North Montgomery “orange” for a teenager they may not have known? How else do you explain the benefit concerts, the bracelet sales, the blood drives?

How else do you explain a young adult asking that his loved ones donate to the Sam Jackman Fund upon his own approaching death?

How else do you explain local dignitaries and the Mayor visiting Sam in the hospital to share the news that his hometown had proclaimed “Sam Jackman Day” just because they wanted to do something in support.

How do you explain #SamStrong?

How do you explain the love?

Sam Jackman was a warrior. We recognized that Sam was fighting for us, too. He could be us. He was us. It is the only explanation that makes sense in the face of a senseless disease.

But Sam was no myth. Sam Jackman was real. And that’s why Sam’s passing hurts so deeply.

You could feel, last winter, the collective gut-punch work its way through the community when Sam’s cancer returned. Then quietness screamed to us the end of Sam’s fight was near.

I always thought that I would meet Sam Jackman. That never happened. However, I will meet his parents, Chris and Lisa. I will see the surviving triplet siblings — juniors to be, Mary and Matthew — play on the courts and fields that Sam loved. I will thank them for reminding me:

We are born to be fighters. We decide to be warriors.

Sam Jackman was a warrior. My warrior. And I hope he was your warrior, too.

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