For the Tinsleys, every day is Memorial Day.
It’s been Memorial Day for more than eight years, since their son and brother, Logan Tinsley, an Army medic specialist, died in Iraq the day after Christmas 2006.
The family has felt Logan’s absence since, even as his memory has been ever-present.
“On the back of my car and on the back of his, we both have a Gold Star tag,” said Vance Tinsley, Logan’s father, as he and his younger son, Ryan Tinsley, recalled the lost soldier Monday.
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“Any day we can talk about Logan is a good day,” Ryan said.
The Tinsleys don’t usually do anything special to observe the national holiday set aside for America’s war dead. Sure, they’ll have a barbecue, but they don’t make a point of attending any of the memorial ceremonies held every year at the end of May.
Until this year, when Logan’s father and brother, both military veterans themselves, agreed to attend the annual remembrance ceremony at Chester’s war memorial, which includes a marker honoring Chester County’s War on Terrorism casualties, which features only one name: Logan Tinsley.
“I’m a little apprehensive,” Vance Tinsley said before the ceremony. “I’ve never done anything like this before. It just takes a lot out of you because of the emotions it brings up.”
Last year, the Tinsleys noticed from media coverage of the event that Logan’s former ROTC instructor, Master Sgt. Al Boyd, attended; so they decided to take part this year.
“We thought it was best to do something to show our respect to all the fallen,” Ryan Tinsley said.
Boyd said he was glad to see the Tinsleys there this Memorial Day. He recalls Logan as an “outstanding cadet” who took part in every activity Chester High’s ROTC program held, and likely was responsible for younger brother Ryan joining a couple years later.
“He qualified for a full military scholarship,” Boyd said. “We all wanted him to attend college, but then he told me, ‘I want to join the Army.’ Reluctantly, I tried to talk him out of it, but what kind of example did I set? I was in the military, too.”
As a combat medic, Tinsley treated Americans and Iraqis alike. But at the age of 21, a Humvee in which Logan Tinsley was traveling overturned in a ravine near Baghdad, and he died at the scene.
Rather than commemorate their loved one on Memorial Day, the Tinsleys make a big celebration out of Logan’s birthday. Every Feb.20, family and friends gather at the Summit bar and restaurant in Chester and release balloons in Logan’s honor.
“We just block off the whole hill,” Vance Tinsley said. “What are they going to do?”
“He was very well known by everybody here,” Ryan Tinsley said. “His friends have all stayed very close. His memory still lives on.”
Since Logan’s death, his mother, grandfather and sister all have died, and both the surviving Tinsley men have deployed overseas. Vance, a 21-year military veteran, served as an Air Force communications sergeant at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, and Ryan shipped out to Iraq with the 82nd Airborne just months after his brother died there.
Ryan Tinsley didn’t have to go, but he said he was still full of anger over what happened to Logan.
“After a while, I realized I was there for the wrong reasons, and if I kept on the way I was going, I wouldn’t make it back,” he said.
Ryan said he thinks his brother would be proud Ryan went through with his own deployment.
“It made me more of a man,” he said. “I was proud to serve, because I believe in the Constitution and upholding our flag. He died so we could still salute it.”
The Tinsleys take a certain amount of pride in knowing Logan was Chester County’s only casualty in the war, and that his name likely will remain by itself on the city’s memorial.
The U.S. ended its combat operations in Iraq in 2011, and did the same in Afghanistan last year. The federal government no longer even uses the phrase “war on terrorism.”
That’s fine with Vance Tinsley.
“As a parent, I don’t want to see another name under his, because I understand what that feels like,” he said. “Right now, it’s like he has his own monument. It’s kind of neat.”
“Of course,” he says. “I’d still rather have him.”
Bristow Marchant • 803-329-4062