More than just days off of school and work, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are two holidays that have been set aside to honor the men and women who have served our country. Memorial Day, specifically, honors those that sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms and national lifestyle.
In 2010, Lt. Todd Weaver, 26, deployed for his second tour in Afghanistan. He left behind a wife of two years and a baby girl, Emma, who was only 9 months old. Through letters and video chat, he was able to remain connected and engaged with his young family.
Tragically, Lt. Weaver was killed Sept. 9, 2010, by an IED mere weeks before he was due to return home. His remains were shipped back stateside and he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery that October. The military memorial is located in Virginia.
In a painful twist of fate, the cemetery was the last place that Lt. Weaver visited before being deployed. At his funeral service not a year since that visit, he was honored with the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and other service recognitions.
Lt. Weaver’s laptop, which he had in Afghanistan, was returned to his wife Emma. Two days after the service at Arlington, she opened it up.
Two Word documents were prominently placed. One was addressed to his wife, Emma, the other, his young daughter, Kiley. Both are heart-wrenching.
The letter to his wife opens with statement, “Well if you’re reading this, I guess I did not make it home and therefore cannot remind you again of how much I love you.” It goes on to apologize for not being there physically, but reminds her that he will always be watching over both Emma and Kiley every moment.
Selflessly, Lt. Weaver encourages his wife to have fun, enjoy life, and find a way to be happy. He wants her to hold on to the wonderful memories that they made, and to keep faith that this is somehow in God’s plan.
“I want you to know just how important you are to me,” Lt. Weaver continued, “I could not ask for a more caring, beautiful, and loving wife … I lived a life that most can only dream of. I married the perfect woman. I had a beautiful daughter that amazed me everyday.”
In his letter to Kiley, he expresses his love for her, his unending pride, and his hope and instructions for her bright future. “Always be nice and caring to others,” he instructs, “and you will discover the world will be nice to you.”
Like his letter to his wife, he offers apologies for not being there to watch his pride and joy grow up. He also reminds the child that she will never be alone because “daddy” will always be there watching over her writing, “but remember, Daddy is not gone, I am in Heaven now smiling down on you every day.”
Emma Weaver shared some of her mourning process on her blog, “A Day in the Life,” which she started before Lt. Weaver passed. She shared how moved she was to discover the letters.
“I couldn’t imagine being at war and seeing what he did everyday and then having the courage to write goodbye letters to the ones you love,” she wrote. In honor of him, and in determination to keep his memory alive in her and Kiley’s home, Emma Weaver printed the letters.
The letter addressed to her now sits on display printed onto one of the couple’s wedding photos. The letter to Kiley overlays a picture of Lt. Weaver reading to his then week-old infant.
When you don’t have anyone directly connected to the armed services, it’s easy to cognitively distance yourself from the imminent danger that service people face on a daily basis. When it’s your loved one out there, you stop having that luxury.
With Veteran’s Day approaching, let’s make an added effort to honor those who look death in the face every day so that we can enjoy our lifestyles back at home. When they don’t come home, it is their families, civilians, that have to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and find a way to move forward.
While too many of our soldiers will not come home, few will have the chance to say goodbye. As we never know what the next hour holds, this story is a painful but potent reminder to take every opportunity to tell those who count that they are loved and appreciated.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.