Memorial Day 2018

“Hero, not a chance,” he would say. “I do my job, giving my all, plain and simple.”

A good friend. An avid fisherman. A consummate professional. Deeply compassionate. These defined him as a man and a warrior.

Icelandic fishing: taking the team on a fishing trip (Sept 2004)

In April 2010, JR was killed in action. Posted with other SEALs in a remote corner of Afghanistan, he said their surroundings were stark. A barren, mountain valley nestled amid soaring, rugged mountains. It was no more dangerous than any other sector. “Afghanistan,” he said, “is a tired land. Her people are tired. Yet, both are ready to live again. Our task is to find her the time.”

He loved his wife and family to his fullest. Proud of Justin, his 19 year old son. And, more prouder of little Jessica, the daughter JR and Amy had tried to have for many years. “Better late than never,” JR said of Jessica. When Amy had Jessica, his life became complete.

sunset fishing: JR and Justin fish from the breakwater (San Diego, Jun 2008)

“I missed a lot of things,” mused JR of his profession. “Yet, Amy kept me in the game.” The profession does not lend itself to enduring, stable marriages. They had one of the few. Amy said, “I loved him with all my heart and soul. It was important in letting JR to do his work … and letting him know all those missed moments did not matter. We were together. That’s all what mattered.” They were a special pairing, clearly devoted to one another.

Amy was incredibly strong when JR came home. Not a tear was shed, nor a hint of emotion. When Andrea sang “Shenandoah” at the funeral mass, Amy’s composure began to quiver.  Amy regained her composure, and assured us she was ready to walk the procession behind his casket at the cemetery. The rainy, chilly weather was not enough to deter her.

foggy view at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (April 2018)

Everyday is Memorial Day for Amy and her family. In the weeks after JR’s burial, her visits were a near daily occurrence – now, twice a week. Her main task is keeping JR’s memory, and essence, alive for Jessica. Only 5 months old at her dad’s passing, she knows him through photos, a few recordings and many stories. Soon, it will become my responsibility to pass along the stories of my friendship with her dad.

Amy and Jessica at the beach (San Diego, Oct 2017)

May the home fires burn bright, keeping the watch.