On Memorial Day I honor the loved and lost from our American Wars. On this day I send flowers to the graves of people who’s story I have come to know in different ways. The arrangement looks something like this:
Example of the flower arrangement I order each year. Sometimes it is a basket with flowers, other times a wreath with banner “Hero” written on it.
I also share the story of each with my sons to communicate the real costs of war. War is not a video game; people die. Others are wounded and lives of combatants are altered in incalculable ways… forever. I pray they NEVER advocate for war without considering these costs.
On Veterans Day I honor those who have served in any of our armed forces living their lives in Tribute to the Fallen (credit U.S. Army Sgt. John McCrary) Memorial Day is for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I hope this demonstrates to active military and veteran friends how much I appreciate the sacrifice of their brothers and sisters in arms.
Here, with humility and supreme gratitude to them and their families for their sacrifice, are REAL heroes…
Army Airborne PFC Cody Board
Afghanistan War –
Killed in Action October 4, 2010
Section 3 Site 977
Fort Sill National Cemetery
2648 NE Jake Dunn Road
Elgin, OK 73538 (580) 492-3200
Private First Class Cody Allen Board died on October 4, 2010 in Mirwais, Afghanistan from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device; he was 19 years old. He was assigned to 1st Squadron, 2w Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany. His Awards and Decorations include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and the National Defense Medal. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
How I got to know Cody: His father, Chris Board, a West Point graduate and Desert Storm veteran, moved with his wife and 3 boys from Coon Rapids, MN to McKinney, TX in 1999. This is the same year I moved with my 3 boys from Farmington, MN to McKinney, TX. Cody was 10 on 9/11 and it affected him greatly, according to his Dad.
“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime. That is why the true warrior cannot speak of battle save to his brothers who have been there with him. The truth is too holy, too sacred for words.”
– Gates Of Fire (Steven Pressfield) posted on facebook by Cody’s Dad Chris Board.
Army Ranger SPC Christopher Gathercole
Afghanistan War –
Killed in Action May 26, 2008
Santa Rosa Memorial Park
1900 Franklin Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95404 (707) 542-1580
Spc. Christopher Gathercole, 21, of Santa Rosa, Calif., was killed while conducting combat operations near Ghazni, Afghanistan. He was a lightweight machine (MK46) gunner. Gathercole volunteered for military service and entered the Army in October 2005. After completing One Station Unit Training, Basic Airborne Course and the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Ranger Indoctrination Program training at Fort Benning, Ga., he was assigned to 2nd Bn. in June 2006. He served in Company C, 2nd Platoon as a M203 gunner and later as a MK46 gunner. In October 2007, Gathercole transferred to Comp. D, 2nd Platoon, where he continued to serve as a MK46 gunner. His mission that would eventually lead to Army Ranger SFC Leroy Petry being awarded the Medal of Honor
How I got to know Chris: My cousin, Marko Milosevic, is an Army Ranger and fought with Chris. Marko survived hundreds of missions and more than a dozen combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan over 12+years. I am so thankful he survived, and equally sorry Christopher did not.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (Hospital Corpsman) Jaime Suzanne Jaenke
Iraq War – Killed In Action June 5, 2006
211 Main Street
Alden, Iowa 50006 (800) 464-2569
Jaime was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25, Fort McCoy, Wis. She was killed June 5 as a result of enemy action when her Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device in Anah, Iraq. Also killed was Navy Equipment Operator 1st Class Gary Rovinski. She was Iowa’s first female to die in the Iraq conflict and left behind a 9-year-old daughter and other family who described the Navy reservist as a caring woman.
“Jaime is without a doubt the kind of person the world will miss,” said Tifani Eisentrager, Jaenke’s cousin. “Jaime’s life, without a doubt, was taken too soon. We mourn her death and will always remember her fondly.” Jaenke was activated in January and had been serving as a paramedic in Iraq for less than three months before her death. She was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25 at Fort McCoy, Wis. Her unit was involved in reconstructing the country, building infrastructure such as schools and wells.
A remembrance from then Chief Winston Kettle, BUC (now Air Force Master Sargent): “Jaime could hang with the wildest people in our unit (Scholl and Hieb!) and would never bat an eye! In fact, she demanded to be where the action was at. She actually insisted to be on that fateful convoy on 5 June 2006 because her ‘Seabees needed a Corpsman!’ That’s the kind of person she was. Long before women in combat were ‘PC’ Jaime was there supporting her Seabees in combat! Just like all the other great woman over the past 200+ years that have done the same in support of our Constitution and our way of life! Jaime is missed by all! Especially her daughter Kayla and mother Susan and father Larry!”
How I got to know Jaime: I went to high school with Winston and he wrote such a great remembrance of her I felt honoring the often overlooked sacrifice of women in combat would be a good addition to these tributes. As Winston says “Women have always been in around and through combat.” It is time to bring their sacrifices front and center along with those of our military men.
Army Staff Sgt. Juan M. Solorio
Iraq War – Killed March 4, 2005
Sect 26, Grave 264A
Dallas Ft. Worth National Cemetery
2000 Mountain Creek Parkway
Dallas, TX 75211 (214) 467-3374
A soldier’s story: the heroism of my friend Staff Sgt. Juan M. Solorio By Sgt. Andrew Spiess. (edited for space). Staff Sgt. Juan Solorio, or “Solo” as I knew him, didn’t die for some political aim. Solo died protecting the lives of his friends. Solo volunteered to serve in a Reconnaissance Platoon, a job that would put him in harm’s way with half the combat strength of an infantry platoon.
In mid-January, our platoon was attacked while escorting a new unit in the city of Mosul, a mission that was supposed to show them the different routes and neighborhoods. A 107mm rocket hit the trail vehicle in our convoy, creating a huge explosion of fire, smoke and deadly shrapnel flying everywhere. My Platoon Sergeant, Master Sergeant Brian Mack was instantly killed, and most of the soldiers were wounded and unconscious. Solo looked up to see the machine gunner had fallen lifelessly through his hatch. Solo knew the gun had to be manned, and he had to get the casualties to the hospital immediately. Solo stripped his bulky armor moved the bodies of his friends to the side, reached the machine gun and started laying down suppressive fire. He was able to get those men to the hospital in eight minutes from when we were attacked.
One month later, Solo displayed great courage again, helping to save my life from what should have been a certain death. We were ambushed by gunmen shooting heavy machine gun fire and AK 47 gunfire. I was instantly pinned in a small ditch watching rounds impact all around me; it seemed as if a huge rain storm had begun pouring all over me. I was being covered by the dirt from the impacting rounds. I thought I was most likely going to get killed, until I heard Solo yell, “Stay there, I’m coming to get you.” He organized six men to fire on the machine gun that had me pinned, while the rest of the patrol engaged the rest of the gunmen. Solo saw the opportunity, ran to the gateway of a building behind me, and told me to come to him. I remember him waving me on, poised as if he was a sprinter on the line of a track, ready to grab me if something happened. I fell running through the mud, and he pulled me into the gate as tracer rounds flew passed flew passed us. A moment later, he organized an impromptu support by fire that allowed a few of us to flank the enemy.
One week later Solo was killed. Our platoon was doing a humanitarian mission in a neighborhood and was heading back for the day. They received a warning that a bomb was in the area. It was enough warning to let everyone know that they were going to get in the mix again. Sure enough, the bomb went off under his vehicle, knocking Solo and everyone else to the ground. An eruption of small arms fire was heard and Solo immediately jumped up and returned fire. Solo was giving much-needed information to the rest of our platoon mates, firing, and then reloading his weapon. In the process of reloading, he was struck by a round that instantly killed him.
You will never find the stories of Solo’s exploits on the news because he was a quiet professional and only cared about what those around him thought. I’m sorry you never got to meet the man who had an uncanny ability to touch the soul of everyone he met. Other things Juan did in his life:
* Served in Scout platoon for HHC 3-21 Stryker Brigade 1-25 INF.
* Squad Designated Marksmen
* Instructor for 1-25 INF Ft Lewis.
* Instrumental in the Army’s transition of its’ light armored vehicle, the Stryker.
* Served in the 82nd Airborne Div with B co 2-505 PIR, in which he served as Jumpmaster with the Division.
* Served as a rifleman and squad leader for the WOLFHOUNDS with B co 1-27 1-25 INF and obtained his Air Assualt tab in this Unit.
* Scoutmaster with Troop 62 Ft Lewis Wa in his sons’ troop.
How I got to know Juan: Juan is the brother of my friend Fabian Solorio. Fabian created the above video to honor his brother who had an unmistakable laugh and was always shown helping his troops learn how to fight and survive during their deployments.
Marine Cpl. Douglas Duane Janssen
Vietnam War – January 26, 1969
Garden of Memories
2901 Douglas Avenue
Yankton, SD 57078-4841 (605) 665-3645
Cpl. Douglas Duane Janssen entered the United States Marine Corps on August 12, 1965, at Omaha, Nebraska, first training at Camp Pendleton, California. Cpl. Douglas Janssen arrived in Vietnam on January 1, 1966, with the 7th Marine Division, for his first tour of duty. He returned from that tour in February 1967 and in August of that year was stationed in the Mediterranean Sea until February 1968. He volunteered for a second tour of duty in Vietnam, leaving May 1, 1968. He was attached to H&S Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division.
With 109 days left to serve before coming home, Cpl. Douglas Duane Janssen died on January 26, 1969, as a result of hostile sniper fire while on patrol in the Quang Nam Province in South Vietnam.
A little more about Douglas (aka YOGI) from Bernie Laguna: “I was in Vietnam, 3rd Marine Div., 3rd Recon Bn. from Aug. 1968-Feb. 1969 as a Squad Leader. I was also in a Combined Action Group also known as a Combined Action Platoon from March 1969 to Aug. 1969 stationed in a hamlet called Nhu Le in Quang Tri Providence. I volunteered to live in that village supporting my fellow Marines who were attacked almost every night before I got there. I was stationed in Nhu Le Hamlet, outside Quang Tri City. The night patrols were under constant and predictable attack. That is why the call for volunteers. Two Marine squads and a platoon ARVNs to protect the village that was 50% VC. Sporadic firefights. Not enough is written or understood about the CAG’s effect on the war. Not one village was taken over by the VC where a CAG unit was stationed. The villagers, both farmers, and VC (we could not tell the difference) benefited from Medical attention. It is a shame that it was not more widely used. We made a difference. I only hope that these lessons are applied to Iraq and Afghanistan.
How I got to know Douglas: Douglas was from the same part of South Dakota as my parents; some of our family members know some of Douglas’ family members.
Marine Air Force Capt. Troy G Cope
Korean War – Killed September 16, 1952
SECTION 76 SITE 1542
Dallas Ft. Worth National Cemetery
2000 Mountain Creek Parkway
Dallas, TX 75211 (214) 467-3374
Troy was shot down in MIG ally and missing for decades until a researcher found a Russian and N. Korean battle reports describing the exact location where his plane went down. The site was excavated in I believe 1996? and his remains were positively identified along with a few pieces of clothing. The above picture was taken just before his last mission.
How I got to know Troy: When I first heard of the excavation of the site, I prayed they would be able to find, identify and return his remains to his loved ones. The not knowing had to be very difficult for them.
Navy Gunners Mate Robert Olson
Word War II – Died 9/25/96
Lot311 Sect 26 Grave 3
Crystal Lake Cemetery
3816 Penn Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55412 612-521-7619
Unlike the others, Robert Olson survived WWII. I include him on my list because he was sunk on the Lexington, was rescued but eventually died of lung cancer undoubtedly brought on by years of wearing an asbestos fire suits on the deck of the Lexington and from smoking cigarettes. Above picture of the Lexington. Bob (along with thousands of others) jumped overboard after the order to abandon ship was given and within about 2 hours of this photo being taken.
He spent about 8 hours bobbing in gasoline, fire and shark-infested waters. He heard many men calling out as they drown, burned or died of their wounds. Bob recalled he felt he survived because he cleaned off a silver watch (that he had won in a poker game a few nights before) and held it well above his head. The search lights hit the watch and reflected back his position even though the rest of Bob was impossible to see in all the oil. They threw a line toward the reflection and he was pulled aboard.
How I got to know Bob: He is my boys Great-Grandfather (on their mother’s side) and I first met him in 1988. I had a wonderful relationship with him and loved talking war stories with him.
God’s Will be done I would never have to add another war or soldier to this list. But knowing we live in a broken world, I am sorrowfully expecting more names to be added to represent future conflicts as yet unnamed and lives as yet not lost. I pray that I am proved wrong.
I am still looking for others: I have yet to identify a soldier killed in action in
- Panama Conflict
- Civil War
- War of 1812
- Revolutionary War
So if you have a relative and don’t mind sharing their story, I would love to hear about them.