Memorial Day is more than the start of summer, more than a three-day weekend or a backyard barbeque. It’s a day of remembrance – a day to remember and pay homage to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen who lost their lives defending our nation.
Today is a very solemn and sobering day for many of us. It is a day where we look back and remember the friends and family members prematurely taken. Take for instance the final letter sent to Army Command Sergeant Major James Blankenbecler, from his 14-year-old daughter, Jessica just days after he was killed in Iraq.
‘Hi Daddy, sorry I haven’t written to you in a while. I miss you so much. How have you been? Is heaven everything it says it is? I know it’s probably that and more. I can’t wait till I can come join you again.
I have your military ring on now. It’s kind of big for my little finger, but it makes me feel you’re holding my hand when I have it on…It’s been on since we found out the news.
And when we drive by the billboards that say, ‘An Army of One’, it makes me remember you in your Military uniform. How you always made a crunching sound when you walked, and how you shined your big boots every night before you went to bed. I miss seeing that all the time.
I can’t believe this has happened to my daddy…It feels so unreal, like you’re still in Iraq…Why couldn’t they know how loved you are here…You have so many friends that love you with all their hearts…Why couldn’t they know? Why couldn’t they know if they killed you I would not have a daddy to walk me down the aisle when I get married? I know you are gone now, but it only means that I have another angel watching over me for the rest of my life. That’s the only way I can think of this being good. There is no other way I can think of it.
Little things that I took for granted when you were here seem priceless now. I will miss you, daddy, with all my heart. I will always be your little girl and I will never forget that … I love you daddy…’
P.S. I have never been so proud of my last name.’
We miss our American warriors like Sgt. Major Blankenbecler, and all of our comrades – of all wars — who laid down their lives for our country.
I would like to recognize all Gold Star Families (families that have lost service members in war), our hearts and prayers are with you. It has been said, that ‘although the burden of grief can become easier to bear, there is the memory of another time and the feeling of sadness over an unfinished life. Yet, the completeness of a life is not measured in length only. It is measured in the deeds and commitments that give a life its purpose. And the commitment of these lives is clear to all: They defended our nation, they liberated the oppressed, and they served the cause of peace.’
As we Memorial Day approaches, let us remember the more than 1 million Americans who have died to preserve our freedom, the more than 140,000 prisoners of war and all those declared missing in action.
Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful)
“Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands.
Protect them as they protect us.
Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need.
About the author:
Jeff Ficaro, Standard Bank & Trust Co. Oak Forest Branch Manager, is a former U.S. Marine; proudly serving from ‘96-‘03. His time overseas included participation in Operation Deny Flight, Operation SilverWake and Operation Southern Watch, twice. He is an active member of the VFW, American Legion and the Marine Corps League.