Monday was President’s Day and the American flags were out on State Street.
I like driving down State Street while the flags are out. The flags remind me of those who have served, those who have given us so very much.
One of these brave men is 36-year-old Marine Corps Master Sergeant Aaron Torian.
Last summer I had the opportunity to meet Aaron at a family barbeque in Santa Rosa. It was a pleasant evening; Aaron talked about his life in the Marine Corps, and his most recent accomplishment of purchasing a home for his family. Aaron also talked about what he treasures the most: his wife, Jurley, and his children, Elijah (9), Laura Bella (4), and Avery (2).
While Elijah and Laura Bella ran around the yard, Aaron talked about his new house. He liked the house because it was just far enough away from his Marine Corps base that when he got home, he could stop being a Marine for a few hours, blend into the crowd while his family watched a movie, or focus on being a “great dad and husband,” he said.
Aaron, who had completed his Master’s Degree while he was in the Marine Corps, opted not to become an officer. It wasn’t because he didn’t like the officers, but because he liked being part of the action; he liked being one of the guys.
Because of his drive and determination, Aaron climbed through the Marine Corps ranks and last summer, he was serving as a Gunnery Sergeant, about to be promoted to Master Sergeant – one of the top enlisted ranks within the Marine Corps.
He was also about to be deployed back to Afghanistan. This would be Aaron’s sixth overseas deployment. He’d served twice in Iraq and four times in Afghanistan. This deployment would be Aaron’s (and the Marine Corps) last deployment in this war zone, because after this deployment, the Marines planned to pull out of the region.
Aaron was a decorated veteran. As a Reconnaissance Marine, he was named the 2005 2nd Marine Division’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for his actions during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. Most recently, Aaron served with the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
What Aaron talked about the most at that barbeque was the life he was looking forward to after he retired from the Marine Corps. Aaron was very active in his church back in Kentucky, and wanted to continue to find ways to help others.
On Saturday, February 15, 2014, Aaron was training Afghanistan soldiers to find and deactivate Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). When they located one, Aaron sent the soldiers to defuse it. Apparently, the soldiers were doing something incorrectly, so Aaron selflessly ran over to help them when an IED exploded.
Aaron was rushed to the nearest medical facility, where medical personnel did all they could. The base Chaplain was by Aaron’s side until Aaron passed away from his wounds.
Master Sergeant Aaron Torain’s remains are now being returned to his family and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
In a recent news story about Aaron, a pastor from Aaron’s church in Kentucky said, “I think there’s two kinds of people: those who run into the mess and danger to try and do something about it, and those who run from it. Aaron was the kind to run into it. He loved being a Marine. He loved what he did.”
Aaron’s wife, Jurley, and their children are dealing with Aaron’s death the way he would have hoped – with all the courage as they can muster. Jurley wants people know how deeply she is touched, and that she will be forever grateful, for the support she has received.
Aaron was respected and loved by everyone he met and worked with. He was an amazing father, a dedicated husband, the best friend you could ever want, and a loving son.
Words cannot express how much he will be missed by all.
One of the things that Aaron would want people to know is that hundreds of thousands of our veterans who come home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Far too often they come home and find their spouses and children suffering as well.
One organization committed to helping veterans with PTSD is Welcome Back Veterans (WBV). WBV was created to inspire Americans to reach out and help our returning veterans and their families. These heroes served us all and kept us safe, and now it is our turn to be there for them.
At the WBV website, www.welcomebackveterans.org, people can learn more about how to help. The goal is to positively transform the lives of our returning veterans by providing on-going treatment for any PTSD-related issues they or their families may have.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Crisis Line is another source of help that connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with responders through a confidential, toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The Veterans Crisis Line can be accessed online at http://veteranscrisisline.net.
Today, more than a million men and women – including some our community’s best – are serving in our armed forces. Millions more have served our country in the past with distinction and honor.
Sometimes in service the worst occurs; we lose those who have so selflessly served us.
Among those we have lost are, Mendocino County’s Army Sergeant Jason Buzzard, who was lost in Baghdad, Iraq in 2006; and Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse Pittman, who was lost in Afghanistan in 2011; and Marine Corps Master Sergeant Aaron Torian.
Tragically there are many others.
I am proud we live in a time and place where so many people are willing to serve and sacrifice.
I am also grateful that our streets are often lined with American flags, because those flags recognize – and remember with honor – those who have served our country.
As always, our department’s mission is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.