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.