In my hometown of St. Augustine, Florida, there is a VFW post named for Sgt. Bryan Tutten. Here is what their site says: “Sgt. Bryan Joseph Tutten, 33, of St. Augustine, died Christmas Day 2007 in Tikrit, Iraq, after an I.E.D. (Improvised Explosive Device) detonated near his position during combat operations. He is the first St. Johns County native to die in a war-related incident in Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. Tutten was a rifleman and squad leader of an infantry company. Tutten enlisted in the Army in June of 2002. His second tour in Iraq began in November 2006, and he was due home within two months when he was killed. He was supposed to serve in Iraq for 4 months. That duty stretched to 12 months and then extended to 15. Tutten was born in St. Augustine, attended St. Joseph Academy, graduated from St. Augustine High School and attended St. Johns River Community College. He was a member of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of St. Augustine. Bryan is survived by wife C.P. (Constandina Peterson) Tutten, and two children, Catherine and Gareth, and his mother Sylvia. Heroism runs in the family. Bryan was the son of the late St. Augustine guitarist and folk singer Tom Tutten. The elder Tutten was 50 years old when he died on April 8, 2001. He drowned while coming to the aid of children who had lost an inflatable raft on Vilano Beach. He reached the raft, according to reports at the time, but then slipped beneath the surface.”
Bryan’s wife is my niece, his children my grand niece and nephew. I remember the Christmas we got the news he had been killed, yet it seems very long ago. It seems that, for the public at large, he has already transitioned into a figure from the past. A photo in a book (or web siite). Oh, yeah, he’s that guy that street is named after.
I am a student of history, and that’s the way history works. It is inevitable, from the mighty down to the regular Joe. Bryan was a regular Joe. Just a regular guy doing what he thought was right. Just a guy doing his job. To me, that is heroic in a way that transcends waving flags and stirring music. Although I cringe at anything that even hints of jingoism, I realize that the pageantry of the day is meaningful to many, and is the just due to them and theirs, for the ultimate sacrifice they made. Yet to me, the truly touching thing of any veterans observation is the fact that these were all just regular Joe’s and Jane’s. They were the barber’s son, and the butcher’s daughter. They were not perfect. They were just like us, and that is why they are exceptional, because they show us…all of us…the heroic face of the common Amertican people. That is what moves me. Not so much the heroism, as the fact that he or she was just an ordinary American, just the kid next door, who did what he did, not to get a street named after him, but because he was raised to believe in something that was worth fighting, and possibly dying, for. God bless them all.