IT’S BEEN FOUR DAYS since Switzerland County officially said goodbye. An entire community stopped and came together as a family to honor you and your bravery. As the days pass, it still really doesn’t seem real.
You should know that this community has mourned since we found that you lost your life serving in Iraq. We have waited for word of your return; we have tried to help comfort your family; and we have planned ways to honor your memory and your service.
Friday was a day of mixed emotions for everyone. I’m sure that your family was filled with pain as your plane landed, but the words that were shared during the ceremony there helped support them during this time.
All along the road during the trip home, there were all sorts of people – people you never met and who never met you – but they were there. They came together and waved flags and put their hand over their heart. Veterans saluted as you went by.
All in honor of you.
As you entered Vevay, the rain and cold didn’t stop hundreds of people from lining the streets to welcome you home. School children were allowed to leave class to stand along the sidewalk.
Some adults held a huge American Flag in honor of you as the hearse drove past. Others saluted you in many other ways, from standing silently to offering prayer.
You should be proud of your family. They came together and withstood tremendous amounts of emotion to greet each person who came to the visitation on Saturday evening.
It was a night filled with all sorts of people. There were veterans groups from all around the area; your local veterans were there as well – with some of them having the honor of bringing you into the gymnasium.
But all through Saturday night you would have been amazed at the endless line of people who came to say thank you. They came to honor a true American hero.
They came to honor you.
Yes, it rained and rained and rained – but that didn’t stop people. They stood quietly outside in the lobby until it was their turn to enter the gym, and then stood patiently longer as your parents and step parents and other family members spoke to each one.
Sunday was another rainy day – absolutely pouring at times, but again that didn’t stop people from coming out to honor you.
The color guard from Fort Knox was right in step – with most of the soldiers younger than you. They were stoic in their mission, and dedicated to seeing their job done properly.
Just like you would have taught them.
There were lots of dignitaries, all spending time talking about your bravery and your commitment to duty. They shared thoughts from your fellow soldiers in Iraq. They shared thoughts on their personal memories of you.
All told of your bravery and your valor. All told of your willingness to help others, how you disregarded your own safety to save others who were in trouble.
They called you an American hero.
They were right.
I thought I’d write you this letter today because there are a lot of emotions inside of me. I guess I keep thinking about how you would think all of this was a waste of time, because you were a soldier who was doing your duty and serving your country.
You wouldn’t want the accolades and the fanfare and all of the speakers. You wouldn’t see any reason for all of it, because you never considered yourself to be a hero – you considered yourself to be a soldier and an American.
And – to us – that’s what makes you a hero.
A couple of weeks ago in this column I wrote about how I used to drive past the Veterans Memorial at the courthouse and pray that we would get out of Iraq and Afghanistan before we had to add another name to that memorial.
We didn’t quite make it.
You’d probably not like that, either, having your name etched next to Switzerland Countians who lost their lives in wars gone by. You would look and say that they are true heroes, and you would blush at the notion that all of us would hold you in the same regard.
Your name is there, now. They finished putting it on just before you got back home. You should be proud of the sacrifice you made to place it there.
I guess I should close now. Time will pass and as a community we will move on to other things and other issues. Just know that for the past few weeks each and everyone of us has been focused on your heroism and our desire to have you back here at home with all of us.
In the coming days and weeks and months we will try and take care of your family, and we will continue to honor your memory by continuing to support our other county troops who are there and are going there.
Thanks, K.R., for being an American hero.
Our American hero.
May we always remember the sacrifice that you made for each of us.
To the point week of 12-13-07