Memorial Day

I don’t remember my very first Memorial Day as an Army Wife, but I do recall that it was 2003, and my husband was serving his first tour of duty in Tikrit, Iraq, at that time.

I also remember that in 2003, Memorial Day began to mean fathoms more to me than it had before because that year, 4 men in Alan’s unit died.

Memorial Day

photo courtesy of Rachel Jack

SSG Steven W. White

SPC. Richard Arriaga

SGT. Anthony O. Thompson

SPC. James C. Wright

I didn’t personally know these men or their families. Alan only knew one of them.

You would think that these deaths of soldiers serving with my husband and my friends’ husbands would have made me extremely fearful and anxious for Alan’s safety.

But I can’t explain it to you. I did not feel all that worried about Alan’s safe return. I always just figured he’d return home without a scratch. That sounds foolish, but you have to remember that I was 21, perhaps that’s yet another reason we let our young adults fight our wars. Some of us, like me, are still brazen enough to believe nothing tragic will ever happen to them.

Unfortunately, so many tragedies did happen, and are still happening all around us. In the past few weeks, several soldiers from Alan’s duty station have been killed in action in Afghanistan, and it always hurts.

It may not be us, and yet it IS us. Every one of these service members IS us, and they gave their very lives to fight for our country.

I asked my friends to share photos of friends and family members who were killed in action defending the red, white, and blue. It always makes it more real to me when I see the pictures and am reminded of those whom we have lost.

Today we want to honor all the men and women who have given all they had for this country.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  –John 15:13

CPT Leif Nott., Operation Iraqi Freedom (photo from Sally Chavous)

Sally was one of my best Army wife buddies during Alan’s first deployment.

Sally wrote:

“This photo of Captain Leif Nott was taken the day the guys left. He was killed during OIF 1. He was in 1-10 CAV with Jon (Sally’s husband) and was killed in Belaruz, Iraq July 30, 2003.

The news of Leif’s death really impacted me (Jon too). Going to his funeral was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He is buried in Cheyenne, WY. I remember the streets were lined with people between the church and cemetery.”

Sally and Jon also lost their friend CPT Matt Mattingly. He served with 1-10 CAV as well but he was killed during another deployment with the 82nd airborne in Mosel, Iraq in September 2006. I don’t have a pic of Matt.


Memorial Day

Sgt. Michael J. Knapp (1983-2012), Asadabad, Afghanistan, photo from forever missed.

My friend Kasey wrote, “He and his wife were dear friends of ours when we were stationed in Ft Lewis. We were in the same small group together.”


This next one is in our own family, Alan’s Uncle Carey.


Memorial Day

Carey Allen Cunningham, Vietnam War, USAF, photo courtesy of Anna Cunningham

Anna writes:

“Captain Carey Allen Cunningham, USAF, Navigator of an F4 Phantom. Shot down over North Vietnam while on a reconnaissance mission on August 2nd, 1967.

Status: killed in action, body not recovered until April, 1998, when new mitochondrial DNA testing was advanced enough to identify his remains so we could have a funeral. He was buried at the cemetery in his hometown of Collinsville, Alabama, overlooking his High School.

He is my Dad.”



Rachel, another one of my best Army wife buddies from way back, sent me a photo of SPC. Richard Arriaga, one of the 4 soldiers in Alan’s very first unit who died while they were serving in OIF I.

Memorial Day

SPC. Richard Arriaga, photo courtesy of Rachel Jack

He was only 20, of Ganado, Texas; was killed Sept. 18 during an ambush by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in Tikrit, Iraq.

We’ve lost so many of our very best. We could go on and on and on. I wrote about the time Alan’s boss died in Afghanistan, a few years ago. You might take a moment to read that one.

I recently made friends with a young Army widow with 2 elementary age school children. Her husband was a Ranger. She wasn’t expecting to live out life as a single mom either. Watching her is the most powerful reminder I’ve ever seen of just how great a sacrifice these men and their families have made. My own sacrifice pales to a mere thing that happened, rather than a sacrifice.

So today, we simply want to say thank you. We can’t express our gratitude enough. Thank you.



***This post is part of the Real Army Wives series, which runs every Monday morning, on*****




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