On a Saturday afternoon in Shreveport, Rob Reeves couldn’t be stopped.

The best high school lacrosse team in Texas—Highland Park of Dallas—was staring down a humiliating defeat at the hands (and sticks) of St. Paul’s, the only team in the state of Louisiana. At the time, lacrosse was so new in Shreveport that St. Paul’s—a local church—was sponsoring a team patched together with players from three separate high schools. Some were football players looking for something to do in the spring. Some had previously played nothing more organized than Mike Tyson’s Punchout. And some, like Rob, were soccer players.

When Highland Park arrived in Shreveport that afternoon, they wasted no time in stringing up a yellow and blue canvas sign between the football goalposts. “Scots” it said—as an advertisement for their team. Of course, the St. Paul’s players took that as an insult. And if the inexperienced collection of first- and second-year players from Shreveport was anything, it was scrappy enough to channel the insult into points on the board.

By the second half, the Highland Park players were confused and tired—having not expected stiff resistance in a town that hadn’t heard of lacrosse two years earlier. Rob was hitting shots in the top right corner. He was bouncing them past the goalie’s ankles. With passes from Braden Robinson and Steven Barnes, Rob was making it look easy. As a midfielder, I watched him do it—feeding him the ball when I could, setting picks when I couldn’t. With a home field to protect, a seasoned coach from the East Coast, and motivation from the Scots themselves, when the fourth quarter ended, the scoreboard read 13 – 7. It was in the Shreveport Times the next day, with a photo of an outstretched Stuart Harris included. It was a good couple of days for us. That was 15 years ago.

I learned about the crash in Afghanistan this past weekend when I rolled out of bed on Saturday morning. The news was lighting up the internet. I leaned over and told my wife. I sensed I knew someone on the bird, but I get that feeling every time a group of troops gets killed. It’s a morbid reflex that never goes away. After two tours as an infantry officer—one in Afghanistan, the other in Iraq—I had walked away from the wars in 2004. And I only knew a single person who’d become a Navy SEAL—so it wasn’t likely I’d know any of them. But on Saturday evening, I saw a high school friend had posted the story on her Facebook page. And that wasn’t a story she’d normally post. Without clicking on it, I knew Rob was among those killed.


It was in the Shreveport Times. Rob and his high school soccer friend, Jonas Kelsall (who I didn’t know personally), were among the Navy SEALs killed in Afghanistan when their Chinook helicopter was brought down by Taliban insurgents.

I wasn’t close to Rob. Probably hadn’t even spoken to him since we walked off the field together after our last game in 1996. And I’m sure those who know him better will write more eloquent eulogies. But when someone goes like this, I think we have a duty to capture, to set down, to preserve what we remember of the person—however insignificant it may be. Maybe it’s the way they’d want it. Or maybe this is just a way for me to process another part of the war that, once again, has cut too close to home. When these events happen, it brings things back. As war correspondent Anthony Loyd once described, the memories are like “a blood-soaked jack-in-the-box.” So I write about it.

I remember a superb attacker hanging out by the goal with a cocky grin. Others will remember someone closer—a good friend, a son, a blood brother. Rob and the rest of the guys on the bird were doing their thing. He was doing his job, just like on the field, just as I remembered.

Go tell the Spartans, thou that passeth by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.

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Published on Aug. 9, 2011

Estimated reading time is 3.6 min.

Views to date: 251

14 Comments

  1. John Cameron August 28, 2011 at 8:47 am

    they just move on to a higher unit RIP Thanks

  2. Drew Brookie August 12, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Brandon, thank you for sharing — well said. Rob, Rest in Peace.

  3. Eric Pernotto August 11, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    What an amazing read! I remember that day well. Rest in peace Rob and Jonas.

  4. Jon H. August 11, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Thank you Brandon. You’ve taken the distant sadness and made it human for us all. May Rob, Jonas, and all our brothers rest in peace.

  5. zeldean friedman August 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Brandon, you are a gifted writer. You gave this young mans short life a memorable and heroic salute.
    What is the saying…young men fight old men’s wars? I want it to stop, so badly do I want this distruction to end.

  6. Jan Northstar August 10, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Thanks, Brandon, for introducing us to Rob. As the mother of a son who served in Afghanistan I pray for their families, that they find peace. God rest their souls.

  7. Chaplain Dan Regan, United States Chaplain Service. August 10, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    My heart and prayers go out to all, may the Lord and all His Angels welcome them Home, and may the Lord grant Peace to their families. I ask this in Christ name. Amen

  8. marie kilby August 10, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    My he and the rest of our fine soldiers families find peace and know our prayers are with them all.

  9. David D'Amico August 10, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Men I salute you and Honor the ground you once walked. RIP Men

    Semper Fi

  10. KM August 10, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    “If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go”.
    Maj. Michael Davis O’Donnell 1 January 1970
    Dak To, Vietnam
    Listed as KIA February 7, 1978

  11. Rick Hegdahl August 10, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for the touching eulogy. Let’s get out of there. Not one more loss of one of our best is worth that pile of rocks.

  12. john ward August 10, 2011 at 3:19 am

    They were young, straight of limb, keen of eye steady and aglow;
    They were staunch against odds uncounted,they fell with their faces to the foe.

  13. Mike Breen August 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Well said, Brandon.

    Rest in peace, guys. You will not be forgotten.

  14. WTF August 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    We Salute Rob!

    His sacrifice is the single greatest offering to the country he loved and lived in.

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