Legacies and Memorials
(June 5, 2007)
|From college scholarships to statues in parks, to book shipments to the troops, to books for children to help inspire early childhood literacy . . . Memorial interchanges and buildings, and legislation fought for and won by those like John and Stacey Holley, parents of Specialist Matthew Holley of San Diego, to have our fallen heroes returned home from the battlefield by military or private transport, met with full honor guards and family members . . . all of these created by and for families who love beyond comprehension their fallen heroes and who remain determined to ensure they are not forgotten and did not die in vain.|
Another such legacy that will affect many for years to come now exists in the village of Camden,
|New York. Here at the request of parents Donna and Renny Parker I recently spoke to honor and remember their son and attend the dedication of the Sgt Elisha Parker Community Youth Center at the Abundant Life Community Church in Camden.|
|In a center created for the community youth to enjoy basketball, social events, and gain spiritual guidance, evidence of Sgt. Parker's love for his Marine Corps and his favorite action hero, Spider-Man, covers several walls. And most importantly, the standard that Sgt. Parker believed in, the motto of his favorite hero will continually be told: “with great power comes great responsibility,” a motto that Eli lived up to and died believing. |
During his third tour to Iraq, assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Bn, 1st Marine Division, 1st MEF, Elisha, on May 4, 2006, was killed by an IED in Al Anbar Province. During days that followed, his hometown of Camden, New York lined the streets with flags and tears to show honor and to provide support for his family. One year later, in the breeze of a sun filled day, Marine Corps flags once again lined the quaint village streets as a community joined together with the Parker family to honor the life and service of their fallen son.
Inside the Abundant Life Community Church where from a teenager Eli had served in the youth ministry, the sanctuary packed several hundred who had known and loved him for many of his twenty-one years. On the front row my husband and I were privileged to sit with Eli's parents, Renny and Donna, his brothers, Isaiah and Andrew and sister Briana for the memorial service. After shared words, songs, and a memorable slide show of photos reflecting on Eli's life and service, everyone in the sanctuary moved to the adjoining building where Eli's parents cut the ribbon to dedicate the new youth center that will forever memorialize this son, brother, and Marine. This legacy is only one for over three thousand of the real life heroes who have given all in the fight against terrorism and whose lives, not their deaths, will be remembered as servants of a higher calling. Lives and legacies that will go on for decades to make a difference for others across the oceans and here at home, for young and old.
In a conversation with another Gold Star mom, we came to the conclusion that because our children are heroes, we have to be heroes, too. And we feel the only way to do this is by continuing to strive diligently to ensure and prove that our loved ones did not die in vain. Therefore many of America's Gold Star families, a term given to those of us who have a loved one die while in service to their nation, seek ways to honor and memorialize them through continuing in the spirit of their beliefs, dedication to their individual military mottos, service, freedom, and faith in order to benefit others of our nation and communities. Are those of us who take this path really heroes? Of course not. But because our loved ones are, we refuse to let them be forgotten or for anyone to say they died in vain.
As Memorial Day, 2007 has arrived again to provide a three day weekend for Federal employees and many others across the nation, as everyone lights the grill and enjoys their day as they see fit, I simply ask that everyone remember why this day was created in 1868 and ushered in at Arlington National Cemetery. Please remember those who have provided, through sacrifice for over two hundred years, the freedom for such a day. Help families like the Parkers to have faith in their fellow Americans to remember to give a moment of thanks and gratitude for warriors like Eli. Help our Gold Star families continue to build legacies and memorials that will benefit our nation for years to come.
I say often these days that the grief of a fallen hero's family is no less or greater than that of the everyday American who suffers the death of a loved one from disease or accident. However, our military families' suffer additional stress because our loved one died for the security of our nation, and additional pain ensues because it seems that the majority of our nation doesn't want to remember or acknowledge that their precious, privileged and free lives come only because of the “less than one percent” of the nation's population willing to wear a military uniform and who have and will continue to sacrifice on our nation's behalf.
In my message to those filling the sanctuary at Sgt Elisha Parker's memorial service I spoke of how our fallen heroes have answered to our Creator having accomplished two greatest of scriptures:
“No greater love has one than they who will lay down their life for another.
And from Paul: “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak. As Jesus said: It is far better to give than to receive. Give therefore to the weak that they may be strengthened.”
Yes, our heroes serving, our wounded, and fallen have met the mark of these words and raise the bar for all others of this nation. The Sgt. Eli Parkers and families of our country will never be forgotten by those of us striving together to create legacies and memorials that will bless lives for generations to come, legacies and memorials that will prove our sacrifices are not in vain.
And may we remember another Spider-Man tag line, “there is a thin line between being an ordinary man and an extraordinary hero,” for all our men and women in uniform, serving and protecting this nation, they are the ordinary, but extraordinary heroes that we owe so very much to.
By Deborah Tainsh
Deborah Tainsh, Gold Star Mother of Sgt Patrick Tainsh KIA Baghdad, Iraq, 2/11/04, is the author of Heart of a Hawk - One family's sacrifice and journey toward healing, recipient of the Military Writers Society of America's Spirit of Freedom award. Deborah is also a supporter of America's military and their families. She is a national speaker, writer, and peer mentor for TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors) located in Washington, D.C. She and her husband, USMC Sgt. Major (Ret) David Tainsh live in Harris County, Georgia, near Columbus and their son, Phillip.
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