Destiny Flynn is in Arlington, Virginia, this Memorial Day. It's a trip she's made several times with her husband, Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, when he wasn't deployed or in training.
This year, however, she headed to Arlington not with her husband, but instead to honor his legacy.
Liam, 34, who survived four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, died March 10, 2015 when the UH-60 Blackhawk he was in crashed in thick fog during a training exercise in Florida. Six other Marines and four Louisiana National Guard members died with him.
Left - Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn on one of his last deployments. (Photo courtesy of Destiny Flynn) Right - Destiny Flynn visits the grave of her husband, Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, with their daughter, 1-year-old Leilani, ahead of Memorial Day 2015. (Photo by Kevin O'Brien, DoD News)
Note: Image created by USA Patriotism! from the two referenced photos.
Now, just two months after burying her husband at Arlington National Cemetery, Destiny headed there again from her home in Jacksonville, North Carolina, to help symbolize the importance of Memorial Day.
Liam's story, Destiny said, could be summed up as living the American dream. The Irishman moved to the U.S. from the small town of Clane, Ireland, months after 9/11. There was just something he felt he needed to do.
“As a kid, he always thought about joining the military, so he ended up moving to New York City, where he was a construction worker,” Destiny said. “He wrote letters to the right people until he got the authorization to join the Marine Corps.”
Liam got his naturalization papers shortly thereafter.
“He always knew what he was destined to do. He just wanted to serve,” Destiny said. “Even though he loved his Irish heritage, he also loved this country.”
Destiny, a member of the Army National Guard, met Liam in 2012 in a Starbucks at Fort Benning when they were both attending airborne school. They married in 2013 and had a daughter, Leilani, about a year ago.
While those are happy memories, she'll always also recall learning of her husband's death.
“I got a phone call from my father telling me to turn the TV on. I just knew right then and there,” Destiny said. “When any kind of mission or training was done, my husband use to text or call me. I had looked at my phone and there was no text, no phone call. I called his phone and got no answer.”
Liam was buried on March 31. Two days later, his family celebrated Leilani's first birthday.
“It's been hard,” Destiny said of the time that's passed.
During Liam's funeral, she said his impact on other people's lives was evident.
“I was shocked at the amount of people who showed up,” she said, also remembering what she told mourners. “I said, ‘If you never met Liam Flynn, you really got cheated out of life, because he was that great.' Never in my life have I met somebody so humble.”
Not long after his funeral, three of his special ops teammates were buried beside him.
Destiny said it's important for her to celebrate Liam's life during Arlington's Memorial Day services this year and in the future. It's equally as important for her daughter, Leilani, whose name means “heavenly flower” in Hawaiian.
“Even though my daughter doesn't understand it yet, I think it's important that she goes up there and knows who her father is — that she celebrates his life and pays respects,” she said. “[I want] to share stories with her, cherish the moment and teach her what it's like to be an American and the sacrifices people make.”
Destiny said Interstate 95 was shut down for about 20 miles for Liam's funeral procession. It was a symbolic gesture that meant a lot.
“He was just a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps with very humble beginnings,” she said. “I feel blessed that I met him and that he left me his legacy. I have a part of him [in Leilani].”
Liam's decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals with Valor, the Bronze Star with Valor, the Combat Action Ribbon and the Purple Heart.
By Katie Lange
DOD News / Defense Media Activity
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