On Memorial Day

Gail Ulerie

"My son, who was in the Marines, loves girls, loves them, but I know he will never get married, that I’ll have no grandchildren. But all in all, I’m living in hope that he’ll be able to do more than he is doing, that he’ll be able to do 25% of his own care. That would be a great achievement and make him feel independent. Now people say to me, well, you don’t have a life, but I have a life. When I go out, shopping or whatever, I enjoy myself, but I’m always wondering what’s he doing. Sitting in the bed? Watching TV? What’s he doing?

           "He can’t go to the amusement park. Oh, that used to be our outing as a family. Shurvon would ride every ride, ride the bumper cars. He loved the roller coaster—the highest, the craziest—and didn’t care how long that line was, he was going to wait. He was going to stand there. He was going to burn in the sun. He had music on, and he was just having fun. He loved to go to the movies, but I can’t bring him to the movies, with him coughing like that. Somebody might think he was making too much noise. Then sometimes I pull him up on his feet and we begin to dance. That’s what I most want to do: dance with my son."

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Dustin Hill

"Now I was always the one who said, 'I never want to have kids.' I guess I thought my life was too busy to have a child involved. I wasn’t ready for it. Then the day Sarah told me she was pregnant that whole thought process just absolutely changed. All I could think about was, 'I have to get ready and have this baby.' That was the end of drinking; I haven’t drunk anything since. No, I’ve had one beer since then; a Vietnam veteran offered me one when I was at his house. You know, since leaving for Iraq, my life has changed so much. It’s… I don’t know why, what did it, but coming home from Iraq put my life into perspective. It’s sad to see guys who went over, fought for their country, and couldn’t leave the war there. That’s all they could think about. It’s ruined their lives. Like I said, I have no time for that. Go to war, leave it at war; don’t bring it home. 

           "Now, because of the injury, I don’t have to get up in the morning. I don’t have to leave home. I don’t have to go to work every day. I don’t have to go and do anything because of the injury. So for me right now, that’s a great benefit. How many people can have a five-month-old daughter and stay home and play with her non-stop?"

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Clarissa Russell

"I went to the funeral at the church, but didn’t go to the burial part, because I had to work that day, and I couldn’t find anyone to work for me. The funeral was sad, beautiful. I carried the baby up to the casket… because I wanted her to see her dad one last time. I had to bring her up there. But then you want to slap him for taking his own life, or yell at him again, you know. But, you don’t, because what you really want to do is… kiss him. You keep it together when you’re up there, and just walk away. Jonny’s sister spoke, his mom spoke, and the priest, but it was hard for all the crying. Still I just didn’t cry. I didn’t cry and I didn’t cry and I didn’t cry. I don’t know why it took so long.

           "Me and Kaley, we go out to the cemetery all the time. We went out there on Easter. We went on Father’s Day. We went for Memorial Day. And then we… we always wave, ’cause we can see his headstone from the road. We always wave when we go by. We say, 'Bye, Daddy,' and we wave."

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