23 July, 2013. It started out as just another day at work. There was absolutely nothing to give me warning how the day would end. Somewhere around noon, I got a very frantic call from my wife Jackie, saying she was called by a very dear friend, close neighbor, and member of our Centennial 209 family asking her to hurry down. Two members of our Nation’s finest rang the doorbell asking for Donna Ribisi. Her husband, Bob told them she was at an appointment but would return in about 15 minutes. He then noticed the Chaplain’s cross on the uniform of one of the two Soldiers. That’s when he called Jackie and she called me.
I got to the house about 15 minutes before they returned bringing the news that all with loved ones serving our great Nation fear; their son, 24-year old US Army Specialist Robbie Nichols had succumbed to injuries received as a result of an Improvised Explosive Device. Because Donna was listed as Robbie’s “next of kin,” she was the only person they could officially notify. What began as a very normal day tragically changed.
It is not uncommon for me to read about our brave men and women dying in battle. Often when I see those articles I say a short silent prayer that God will wrap His comforting arms around the family and help them through the pain. It really is very different when it happens to someone you know and love. It is not some abstract article or news report. These untimely deaths forever changes the lives of many people; family, neighbors, friends, and teammates.
But rather than dwelling on how Robbie died, I would much prefer to think about how he lived.
He was free-spirited, greeted everyone he met whether it was the first time or 100th time with a big smile. It is almost cliché for people to make these claims when remembering loved ones. I was hesitant to make the statement, but I would have been sadly remiss to not say it. Robbie was the type of person we all wish we could be. I am confident many of his friends lived vicariously through him because he was so full of life, everyone wanted to share in his vitality.
Robbie loved his parents, brother Chad, grandparents and friends deeply. He was generous to a fault and was always ready to lend a hand. He loved to pull pranks on everyone, and did so often. And he loved his Country and the US Army. He re-enlisted while in Afghanistan. He was a gung-ho Soldier, which he proved by declining other job opportunities upon enlistment because he wanted to be an Infantry man.
I don’t think Robbie wanted to go when he did, but I firmly believe that if he had to leave this earth early in life, this is how he would have scripted it. This true American Hero would want to go while defending his Country and his teammates. He truly epitomizes the Gospel of John, 15:13; “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
I thank God that He put this wonderful family in my life. I am richer for having the privilege of knowing Robbie and will always remember him. I am honored to count Bob, Donna, and Chad among my closest friends, as well as members of our Centennial 209 family. Bob and Chad are Sons of The American Legion Squadron members and Donna is a member of our Auxiliary Unit. Please join me in saying a silent prayer for the family and friends of US Army Specialist and Centennial Post 209 Legionnaire, Robbie Nichols.
For God and Country,