|Story his father, Gordon wrote for TAPS magazine
Living the Legacy
“It has recently occurred to me that we—all of us American citizens—are the legacy of our American soldiers. We owe them our lives—lives that must be lived to their fullest potential. And this is the greatest tribute we could possibly give to soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.” ~ Annette Bridges, freelance writer from Texas.
At some point in our grief journey many of us conclude that we will go on living—not merely existing or even just surviving, but truly living—for those who died. At that point we may find ourselves becoming the legacy that our loved ones left behind. Here are some stories of those who have done just that. In this issue we will feature a fiancée, a father, and a sibling. ~ Betsy Beard, Editor TAPS Magazine
Let the Good Days Come
By Gordon Bolar, surviving father of Corporal Matthew Bolar
One of the things that someone said to me shortly after Matthew died in 2007 was this: “There will be some good days and there will be some bad days. Let the good days come and enjoy them.” I didn't believe it at the time but it turned out to be true. I have to tell you when I first heard these words in the wake of losing my son, I wasn't the most optimistic person on the planet.
But lately there have been some changes. To tell you why and how, I need to go back a few years.
When Matthew was eight years old and tied balloons on his arms to jump off the monkey bars thinking he could fly, I suspected that my son was an optimist. When he turned 12 and announced he was a New Orleans Saints fan—back in the nineties when they had never been to the playoffs or had a winning record—I strongly suspected that he was an optimist. And when Matt told me in 2005 he was going to Fort Benning to learn how to jump out of airplanes—with no balloons tied to his arms this time—all of my earlier suspicions were confirmed!
My favorite picture of Matthew was taken at the NFC championship game in 2007. Matt had just returned from his first tour in Iraq and with the help of some friends I got tickets to the game at Soldier Field. That Sunday the Chicago Bears were easily victorious over his New Orleans Saints. The Bears went on the play in the Super Bowl. But on the way to the airport Matt said, “Dad, the Bears were the better team today, but I know someday the Saints will win the Super Bowl.”
Some time later I put him on the plane at Midway Airport. That was the last time I ever saw him alive. He had volunteered to go back to Iraq for a second tour. When he got there he volunteered to drive down a road that few others wanted to drive down. He was an optimist all the way. Like so many of our soldiers, I guess he had to be…to drive down that road and do what he did. He was killed on May 3, 2007 when an IED exploded under his HUMVEE. But the story doesn't end with Matthew's death on that road south of Baghdad in 2007.
Although I had poked fun at his allegiance to the New Orleans team, I became a die-hard New Orleans Saints fan in the season of 2009-10. Maybe I jumped on the bandwagon late, along with a lot of other people, but for me it wasn't really the Saints that I was rooting for.
Moments after the Saints won over the Vikings in the Super Bowl on February 7, 2010, I watched on TV as Quarterback Drew Breese held his infant son aloft in victory. Balloons were released behind him. I felt Matthew's spirit of optimism at that moment in a way that I never thought possible. I am grateful that I know what a good day is now. And I am grateful that Matthew's life and his spirit of optimism that touched my life and continues to touch it even today. Sometimes there really are good days. We have to acknowledge them when they do come around. And hope they will come again.
|From The Montgomery Advertiser montgomeryadvertiser.com
By Lisa Horn
With a batch of her son's favorite cookies bound for Iraq the next day, Anne Adkins finished her baking and went to bed Thursday night.
But a soldier's mother never rests easy.
That same night, Adkins' worst nightmare became reality when two soldiers arrived at the door with news that her 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Matthew T. Bolar, had been killed in action.
"I would have nightmares about them showing up at night," she said. "And then when Vernon came into the bedroom and said, 'You've got to get up, it's Matthew,' I thought ... 'This is my nightmare.' "
Bolar, who graduated at the top of his class from Montgomery's Canterbury High School in 2002, died of wounds received from an improvised explosive device. His unit, the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, was conducting patrols in Baghdad.
Bolar is survived by his parents, Anne and Vernon Adkins of Montgomery, and Gordon and Elly Bolar of Kalamazoo, Mich., and his sister, Emma, 20, who graduated from St. James School and now attends the University of Alabama.
Two days after receiving the news, the Adkins family reminisced at their Montgomery home. They remember a driven, fun-loving young man who volunteered for a second tour of duty just two months after returning from his first deployment.
"He said it was a lot better for him to go than somebody that had a bunch of kids," Vernon Adkins said Saturday. "He said, 'Somebody will do it for me in the future.' "
Bolar, who deployed to Iraq from February to December 2006 (which included a three-month extension), had been in country just two months when he was killed. The Adkinses still are trying to determine the details surrounding their son's death but said his unit was assigned to an area in south Baghdad where the soldiers searched for insurgents and escorted convoys.
This deployment, however, felt different, Anne said.
"I think we all knew somewhere nothing good was going to come out of this second tour," she said. "We were worried, really worried, about the second tour."
Bolar tried to protect his parents and revealed more about his missions to his sister, Vernon said.
"He wasn't always a good liar," Vernon said jokingly. "He ended up with a concussion, I think, once. He was real protective of me, and especially, his mom."
Anne last spoke to her son Tuesday when he called her at work at Raycom Media, where she serves as vice president of marketing.
"Thank God I talked to him," she said. "I was at my desk when he called. He said, 'Just chill, mom, just chill. There's nothing to worry about.' "
But like all mothers, she worried. Vernon tried to reassure her that "he was bulletproof," his resolve too strong.
As a boy, Bolar dreamed of entering the military. And when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, took place, they only reaffirmed his goal. Anne encouraged him to go to college, but after a year at Auburn Montgomery, the then 21-year-old enlisted.
"Once he put his mind to something, that was it," Emma Adkins said. "It didn't matter what it was."
That determination also included seeing his family one last time before he deployed in late February.
"He called us and said, 'I've got a day and a half that I can get off,' " Anne said. "And we said, 'We'll be there.' "
With Bolar flying from Anchorage and the rest of the Adkins family from Montgomery, they reunited in Seattle, where they spent their last few hours together.
"He was determined to see us because... I think maybe he thought he might not be coming back this time," Vernon said. "I got that (feeling), but I don't know."
"I'm so glad that I had 20 years of an unbelievable relationship as opposed to 80 years of something mediocre," Emma said of her brother. "He died a 'somebody.' And isn't that what we all want, is to be remembered?"
In the coming days, Bolar will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. In Montgomery, the family will celebrate their son's life with a party.
Bolar, Anne said, wouldn't have had it any other way.