My Friend Henry

In a sort of continuation from the last post, let me tell you about my friend Henry.

I met Henry when he showed up at HHD, 334th Quartermaster Battalion in the summer of 2006. I was into my second year as Unit Administrator (or may have been promoted by that point, but that’s not important). Either way, I was kind of the first face people saw when they showed up new to the unit because that was kind of my job.

Henry was a young kid – he was always a kid to me. He showed up as a 17 year old excited for basic training. I hope I wasn’t too jaded by that point in my stalled Army career to make him regret his decision to enlist, but probably not. He was super gung ho, and would be for the next little while, at least until the Army started to suck the drive out of you.

He was going to be a part of our petroleum lab section. This “state of the art” piece of equipment was actually pretty cool… once we eventually got it certified and all the necessary components. Corey Mange was kid of in charge of the whole operation – since he had shown up first – but there was also Albert Gilbert and Maya Amaker kicking around at the time, to be joined later by some others.

Henry shipped off to basic for the summer, so we didn’t see him again for a while, and then came back, finished high school, went to advanced individual training, and came back chomping at the bit to get the lab up and running. And they lab “kids” worked hard to do just that, often spending extra days between “battle assemblies” to come in and inventory, order, sort, and do whatever else was needed in that lab. I’m fuzzy on the details because I wasn’t involved in the petroleum stuff at all as a paralegal, but I helped to ensure that they were able to get paid for all their hard work.

That lab was eventually certified by whoever it needed to be certified. You see, it was a mobile petroleum testing lab. Fully deployed, it would ensure that the fuel the army used for its various vehicles was the right purity, so you didn’t end up putting crappy gas in a helicopter and causing it to crash. It was never used in a combat theater, and I think we only ever took it to one annual training and ran actual fuel through it, but it was still a mighty accomplishment. If I remember correctly, the folks involved in getting it up and running, primarily Corey Mange and Henry, received some recognition for doing so.

When it came time for our unit to get alerted for deployment, we weren’t going to need our petroleum lab for the work we were going to be doing. Henry followed his mentor Corey and reclassified as a movement control specialist (88N was the MOS) to do a very important part of our mission in Iraq. I don’t know all the details of what they were doing, but I know it involved packing stuff on big skids for the planes and coordinating flights to ensure stuff got where it needed to go to support our “customer,” but if i told you more I’d probably be violating a non-disclosure agreement.

Some random sports bar in New Jersey, November 2009

When we came back from the deployment, Henry was one of the few from his “generation” at the unit that still had some time left on their contract. I moved on pretty quickly after we returned, though I did have a bit of a last hurrah with everyone in Atlantic City (at the Trump Plaza!) for Yellow Ribbon and transitioning back to “regular” life.

I literally moved away the following summer, first to Virginia, and then back to Utah, and began to slowly lose immediate touch with most of my Army friends. I kept in contact through social media, but that’s not always the best. I saw him when back for a wedding in Connecticut, but that was also the last time I was back in Connecticut. He also moved, heading to Wisconsin for work, at least that’s what Facebook would tell me.

We reconnected for a bit last year over some post on Instagram, and he updated me on his life. He had a new relationship, a new career path, and a new outlook on life. I was happy to see him happy, but that didn’t mean I made more of an effort to keep in touch. I was fine with the infrequent likes on photos and the basic interactions that we have through social media.

On Thursday, I found out from an old Army friend that my friend Henry has died. Apparently it was a car accident, but I’m still waiting on all the details. The last few days have been full of communal grief shared by a lot of people that knew Henry much better than I did. But it still hurts that he’s gone.

To know someone their entire adult life is something. He came to us a a kid – he was always a kid to me – but he grew into one heck of a soldier and an even better man. He will be missed by a lot of people, including me. He was taken much to early and I grieve for his family.

Goodbye Henry. ‘Til Valhalla.

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