Wounded warrior remembers Armed Forces friends who died

HOUSTON – Memorial Day is so much more than just spending time with your family for a cookout.

“I served 14 years in the Marine Corps and very proud. I was a proud infantry guy for all that time, first Gulf War,” John Roberts said.

He graduated high school and joined the Marine Corps in 1983. When he left the service as a staff sergeant, he said it was not by choice.

“A year after the Gulf War, I was on a Westpac (Western Pacific) deployment on ship with my unit and we were diverted into Somalia, and the military, the Marine Corps helicopter I was on, blew up in midflight,” Roberts said.

He said 80 percent of his body was burned and he almost lost an arm. Every Memorial Day, he remembers that flight.

“There was 18 Marines on board. I lost four, which is really why Memorial Day is one of those, it's that time of the year where you remember those that paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Roberts said.

Roberts knows the holiday doesn’t hold the same meaning for a lot of the country. In fact, he used to be the same way.

“For me it was a holiday. I was a kid. I wasn't really thinking patriotic things growing up,” he said.

Although not everyone has a personal connection to the military, Roberts said he believes everyone can make an impact on Memorial Day and every day.

“Almost every city around the country, they have national cemeteries. They put out wreaths. They put on events to just sit and have the public come in and remember those that served and died. Find out what's going in their local community and get involved somehow,” he said. “This is a great opportunity as a country to thank these individuals but it's also remembering their families, those that had to carry on after they lost their loved one. It's also a time for those that survived, for us to reach out to them, make sure they're OK.”

Roberts said he and his friends had each other’s backs while they were on active duty and Memorial Day is a great time to do that again.