Today’s guest writer is Mr. Michael Vincent of Hot Springs High School. He is a longtime EAST facilitator and a gifted one. His subject is one no one ever wants to write about.
We at EAST honor the service and sacrifice of Cpl. Buffalo. Our prayers go out to his friends and family.
Loren Miles Buffalo was a kid with a unique name and personality. Known as “Buff” or “Buffalo” to his friends, Loren was liked by all and was always doing something for someone else. The day I met him, I thought to myself “What kid in this day and age dresses like a cowboy?” I later found out that Buffalo was as close to the real thing as it gets.
Buff was always into something, whether it was breaking a horse on the homestead, or shoeing horses for his father’s blacksmithing business. He was a hands-on kind of kid with a “get the job done” mindset. He was always working and never had a complaint. He found his niche his sophomore year when he took on his first EAST project in my class.
Buffalo was not a computer genius, but his big heart and work ethic made up for anything he was lacking in the technical realm. When he found EAST, Buff was hooked. He started organizing community projects, from gathering presents from area schools and delivering them in his horse trailer to the Salvation Army to organizing and hosting a memorial for WWII veterans in and around our community.
Loren came alive when he was rewarded for serving his community. There was no bigger moment in his high school career than when a local WWII army vet hugged him after a memorial ceremony, telling him to never forget the lessons of these men. As Buffalo fought back tears, he told the man that no one could ever forget the actions of heroes. To that the veteran replied, “Never call us heroes. The real heroes are the men and women who never made it home.”
Something in Buffalo changed at that point. He had done a lot for the community but felt it was all insignificant compared to what those men had done for him. He related to their passion for their country, family, and community. One day the following week he informed me he was joining the military. It was apparent right away that joining was not something he was considering. It was something he was doing. I asked him why he wanted to join and be an Army scout. He replied by using my own words. “Nothing worth doing is ever easy.” I didn’t know whether to hug him or cry. Instead I just shook his hand and said I would pray for him. There was no talking Buffalo out of his decision. He had changed in three years from a hard-working kid to a young man serving people in need. He loved everyone in the small community of Mountain Pine and they knew it.
The year after Buffalo graduated he stopped by my classroom to shake my hand before leaving for final training and deployment. He had fallen in love with military life and thought he might make a career of it. He said “I’m going to make a difference here.” I remember thinking that with his work ethic, attitude and big heart, he would do great things. I thanked him for his service and told him to stay safe. He said he would call me when he could. As he walked out the door he stopped, turned and saluted me as if I were someone important. Chills went down my spine.
A year went by. I was getting Facebook messages from Buffalo and photos of his adventure. He had changed considerably, as anyone who has gone through war does. He struggled with the mental battle that comes along with fighting an enemy that hides behind innocent women and children. He was determined to get the job done, but had not realized it would be this hard. His platoon, though, was like a large family and they were all getting through the tough time together. He talked about the people in the small towns that cheered for his unit, which seemed to lift his spirits and refocus the group on its tasks. His unit was making their new home in a place known as “The Green Hell,” a historic Russian battleground named for its dense vegetation in springtime. It is said that people can be mere yards away there, and go unseen due to the vegetation. Buffalo said he hated the place and could not wait to get out.
March 2 at 4 a.m. Buffalo met me on Facebook to talk. He knew I was taking kids to the EAST conference and wanted to wish me luck. We talked for a long time. He informed me that he was going on his last mission and would soon be coming home. He was having second thoughts about remaining in the military. He felt that he had done what he needed to do, and the longer he remained in the tougher it would be to convert back to normal civilian life.
He looked forward to finishing his service time in Kentucky, then taking some time off just to be with family. He wanted to work with his father for a month or two, to reinforce their bond. He could not wait to come home and hug his siblings. When I asked what he planned to do after that, he said “I figure if I can do this I can do anything. Maybe I’ll go teach EAST. That was fun!” I laughed at him and told him the first time a student frustrated him he would lose it. He replied “Yeah, you’re probably right.” We continued to talk about EAST stuff and its National Service Project focus on the USO. He said he missed it all and that the conference was the highlight of his educational career. We continued to reminisce about his high school days until 7 a.m. when I had to leave. I told him “Stay safe and I’ll see you when you get back.” He replied with a simple “See you soon bro… I love you.”
March 9, 2011 Cpl. Loren M. Buffalo, 20, of Mountain Pine, Arkansas, died in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Buffalo was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
We have a new hero. Honor him by living a good life, and never take your freedom for granted.
A memorial fund has been established. Checks should be made to the Loren Buffalo Memorial Fund, to be deposited at any First National Bank. Funds will be used for a memorial marker at the Garland County Veterans Memorial.
Graveside services will be held Friday, March 18, 2011 at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in North Little Rock at 11 a.m. The ceremony is open to all.