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Archive for September 10, 2012

cheers for conor

< by JHK >

In my memory, Conor Masterson looks like the MAD Magazine kid: He has big goofy ears, auburn hair, and twinkling, mischievous eyes.

When I think of him, I’m back in Ms. Lundmark’s first-grade classroom, seated at the special-help table. It’s week three of tutoring, and syllables still don’t make sense. “Just clap it out!” our tutor implores, holding up a flash card. “What’s the word?” she asks. “Basket,” I say. “Now clap it out!”

“Basket,” I repeat, clapping randomly.

The tutor sighs.

Conor breaks into applause. “Basket!” he exclaims, affirming my syllables with a battery of claps. Then, to seal our solidarity, he reminds me: “You know, our parents are both named Mark and Sandy.” He says this every week. He even tells my mom when she stops in to volunteer.

At some point, Conor moved away. For the next 15 years, whenever school got tough, I thought of him — my ally at the tutoring table.

In April 2007, my sister called me and asked if I had heard about Conor Masterson. “Not since first grade!” I said. “So what’s he up to?”

“He was killed in Afghanistan,” she said.

I remained silent for several moments, gripped by sadness. It seemed impossible that anything — even death — could extinguish his bright spirit.

If I could talk to Conor one more time, I’d thank him for standing up for me and our country.

Or, maybe, I’d stand up, put my hands together, and clap it out: “U – S – A! U – S – A!”

I know he’d join me.

If you have the opportunity to thank a soldier today, please do it. 

For Conor’s full story, see his biography.