28 May Memorial Day Speech from Gold Star Dad
Jeff Falkel delivered this speech to over 600 people in Irvine, California on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014. I found his message of love to be powerful and moving, and received his permission to post it here:
For most Americans, Memorial Day is a day and weekend for picnics, BBQs, consumer sales and trips to the beach. AAA reports that over 1 million people will take to the roads to celebrate the weekend.
But for the families of the fallen – our GOLD STAR families – EVERYDAY is Memorial Day
Years ago – long before my warrior, my hero, my son SSG Chris Falkel crossed over, he asked me what Memorial Day was all about …
Without hesitation, I told Chris then what I still believe today that Memorial Day is all about …
It is about LOVE … and this is what I told him
There are many reasons why someone joins the military, but if you ask most of the 1% that do raise their hand and put their civilian life on hold – they will tell you that they do it for love
Love of family – so someone else doesn’t need to go into harm’s way
Love of country – and all that protecting our freedoms requires
Love of the brother or sister on their left and their right – the family that ONLY someone in the military can know about and that they give and receive so much love from
The men and women of our military have been at war longer than any other conflict that our great country has ever been involved in. But in every war, many of our family never make it home.
This monument is a wonderful and moving tribute to the men and women who perished over the past 13 years
For these men and women, their love has now become our love, and we owe it to them to continue and uphold their love, their dreams, and their wishes as our own.
Let me tell you about a few members of my military family and how they are carrying on the love, hopes and dreams of some of the men and women on these stones
- Mr. Michael Reagan, who put his illustrious art career on hold to draw at no charge, over 3,800 portraits of the fallen as gifts for our Gold Star families. Mike was a Vietnam veteran that had a fellow Marine die in his arms, and Michael’s Fallen Heroes Project has helped him make the journey home, and given peace and hope to ALL of those 3800 families. My portrait of Chris is one of, if not the most prized possession I have. I love Mike Reagan.
- Mrs. Jen Paquette, whose husband miraculously escaped death but lost both of his legs in Afghanistan. She loves our Special Forces family so much that she sacrifices everything to be there and do ALL she can for the 267 Special Forces Gold Star families and the over 800 Special Forces warriors that have been wounded in the war. She is relentless in her dedication and devotion to our Special Forces family. My life is better for having Mrs. BossLady – Jen Paquette in it!
- Mr. Joe Baddick, who lost his son in Iraq, but has worked tirelessly to keep his son’s memory and love alive through a book about his son. He now has written a second book about the stories and journeys of some of our severely wounded soldiers so they will never be forgotten for all that they have given. Joe takes every penny from the sales of his books and donates the monies to support the needs of our wounded. He also goes to as many WWII events as he can to do whatever he can for those tremendous men.
- Mrs. Louise Cantrell, who lost her husband and their two beautiful daughters in a house fire two years ago. Chief Cantrell had been deployed 6 times, and had been awarded 5 Purple Hearts, but tragically died with their daughters. Louise is developing scholarships for young dancers in her daughters honor, and a fishing tournament to raise money for those in need. Louise is also going out and talking to young women about her story and her family – which serves as an inspiration to countless numbers of young ladies … and to me too!!! Seeing all the good that Louise is doing and will continue to do – touches my soul and puts a smile in my heart.
- Mr. Zeth Ronin Read. Z was only 18 months old when his warrior father got multiple myeloma. For the past 7 years, while his dad was battling cancer like the warrior he was, Zeth has grown his hair long so that it could be used to make wigs for other people who have cancer. He was and still is teased and made fun of at school and around town because of the length of his hair. But he has his mission, just as his dad did on so many occasions. Zeth’s dad, my brother, lost his battle with multiple myeloma on 12 April, but Zeth will continue to help others who have cancer, and I know he will for the rest of his life.
- … and then there is this guy that makes bullet pens. They were my son’s idea and I KNOW that Chris is smiling down on me with every pen I make. We have turned an instrument of war and made it a tool of education – which was so important to Chris. We have made over 170,000 pens in the past 7 years. They are in countries all over the world, and have touched the lives of so many people. And we have given over $300,000 in funds and product to the foundations that support our Special Operations family … and we are JUST getting started!
These great Americans I have introduced you to just now have overcome the tragedy in their lives and are living the love of their loved ones.
Just as their fallen family member made a difference, they are NOW making a difference in the lives of so many.
Because of their love, they are living their lives of love for others.
So, I will leave you with this request – everyone here has lost a loved one, many who are truly more than a name on these walls – I ask you … out of love … to dedicate the rest of your lives for those you love and that which they were passionate about.
Live their love.
They gave their tomorrows for OUR today – do something with each new today
Memorial Day is not just a time for honor, thinking and remembrance … it is a time for action. To do with our lives what they cannot… Thank you.