It hardly seems as though almost 6 years have gone by since you left us. Not a day goes by that
I don't think of you in some way or another. Sometimes it is a memory of things we used to do
together, sometimes it is something one of the grandchildren say or do that remind me of you,
and every time I see the American flag.
Life has changed so much without you. Jason has stepped up and is trying to be the man of the
family and has taken on the responsibility of being mom's guardian angel. He is trying to be so
big and brave just like you were. Patrick has built a wall around his little world with Cassie and
the kids and he is very selective as to whom he allows to enter and when. Heather misses you
terribly, especially now that Aubrey is here. She is spoiled rotten but not half as spoiled as she
would be if you were still here. Kathleen and Jamie each miss you in their own way for their own
reasons. Dottie seems to be the most "normal" of all your siblings but it is difficult to get a
reading on her because she hides her feelings so well.
Mom is doing well and is learning to cope. There is a hole in her heart that will never heal but
she is learning to live with the pain of your loss. She now has more good days than bad days so
I will take that as progress. She still struggles with the why as we all do. Why out of all the people
in the world did it have to be you? Only God knows that answer and He has not yet let us in on
the secret. But we trust Him and know that He had a very good reason for doing so.
We have met a lot of good people since your death. There are so many good people out there
who care and who appreciate your sacrifice. While their recognition is often painful it is also
comforting to us as well. Mom and I both agree that we have truly been blessed by the kindness
One of the people we have met is Don Herrold. Don is a veteran and the Chaplain of the VFW
post in Jeffersonville. He is in his late 70's and works tirelessly to remember and honor our
veterans. I have been a part of his Memorial Day programs since you left us in 2004. Usually he
asks me to give a little speech at the ceremony and sometimes he asks me to go with him to the
nursing homes to talk to the veterans there.
My message is always about remembering and honoring our veterans and our fallen heroes.
This year is the first year that I have actually spoken specifically about you. I felt that perhaps if I
could put a face to the sacrifice and make it more personal then maybe the audience would
better understand and accept my message. I would like to share with you what I said if that's ok
I am humbled to live in the shadow of heroes. Just as a mother’s love blankets her young child
our fallen heroes sacrificed their lives to cover each of us and our families with the blanket of
freedom. Today they lie in the cold earth in order that we may lie in a warm bed.
Yes, I am truly humbled to live free in the shadow of my heroes, the 1,311,716 soldiers who gave
their lives in the service of our country, securing and protecting our freedom.
To put that number in better perspective 1,311,716 is thirteen times the combined population of
Charlestown, Clarksville, Jeffersonville, New Albany, Sellersburg and Utica. It is equal to 1 out of
every 5 residents of the state of Indiana.
Twenty-two years ago I met a young man who changed my life. He was seven years old at the
time and his name was James Daniel Faulkner.
He was a quiet and gentle person who always wore a smile and left you with the impression that
he was content to watch the world go by around him. A little over a year after I met him, Daniel
became my stepson.
As he grew and I got to know him better I learned that Daniel was a person of great inner
strength and not one to be easily swayed by peer pressure or popular trends. Daniel was a
young man of few words, but when he did speak people would listen. I knew that some day he
was going to make a difference in this world, I just didn’t know how.
Daniel believed that a person had to stand for something in order to keep from falling for
anything. Daniel valued honesty, integrity and bravery. He was kind to his fellow man and would
gladly offer the shirt off his own back if he thought there was a need.
One day, much to our surprise, Daniel came home and told us that he had joined the United
States Army. Looking back on it now it seems only natural that Daniel would join an organization
whose values are Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal
Courage. Almost a mirror image of his own, but at the time we never saw it coming.
Daniel was a good soldier, well respected by both his peers and his superiors. He quickly rose
to the rank of Sergeant in the 20th Engineer Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division stationed in Fort
In March of 2004 Daniel’s unit was deployed to Baghdad Iraq in support of the War on
Terrorism / Operation Iraqi Freedom. The following August Daniel came home from Iraq on a
two week leave. Late one evening we had a chance to talk privately and I asked him if he was
afraid of going back to Iraq. He told me that he wasn’t afraid for himself. He said what worried
him the most was keeping the men in his charge safe from harm.
Before returning to Iraq Daniel broke the news to us that he had reenlisted for an additional four
years. When his mother asked him why his reply was simple but true, “It’s my job and I’m good at
One week after he returned to Iraq Daniel lost his life on September 8, 2004. He was killed by a
roadside bomb while patrolling a section of highway in Baghdad. I have been told by witnesses
to the event that at the moment of his death Daniel was on the radio trying to warn his men of
And while Daniel is one of the fallen heroes that we honor today, his story is just one example of
the brave and selfless acts of the 1,311,716 heroes that we have gathered here to honor today.
I must admit to you that before Daniel joined the Army I never gave a lot of thought about
freedom. I never really thought about what it took for America to gain her independence from
England or what it takes to maintain that freedom.
My father was a Marine and my uncle an Army Air Corp pilot in World War II but they never
really talked much about their war experiences other than to say they did what they had to do to
serve their country.
Through Daniel’s enlistment and experiences I began to see things a little differently. I met and
talked with many of the men and women that he served with. I learned about the bond that
develops between soldiers. I saw how they trust and depended upon each other for support and
safety. They literally trust each other with their lives.
I learned that protecting our freedom and our way of life is serious business. It’s not about
putting on a snappy uniform and playing soldier. It’s not about stripes, badges and medals and it
certainly isn’t glitzy and glamorous like it is often portrayed in the movies.
I learned that protecting our freedom is about honesty, integrity and courage. It’s about respect,
loyalty and selfless service. It’s about standing strong and tall in the face of grave danger and
giving everything you’ve got to make sure that the people back home can go about their daily
routine without having to life in fear of persecution and oppression.
I learned that every soldier takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United
States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
Each of them gave their word that they would honor and defend our freedom and our way of life,
and 1,311,716 of them have died keeping that promise. They would each argue they are not,
but in my opinion they are truly heroes, my heroes anyhow.
I believe that the most important lesson Daniel taught me is that our freedom is not free; it
comes with a cost, a price that must be paid by every Citizen of the United States of America.
Some pay their share of the price by serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines or Coast
Guard. They are the ones who defend our freedom so that it may be enjoyed by future
generations of grateful American citizens.
The 1,311,716 fallen heroes that we honor today paid their share by sacrificing their lives while
defending our freedom. They paid the highest price imaginable.
The rest of us must pay our share of the price by remembering and honoring our fallen heroes
and that is why we are gathered here today on this Memorial Day.
Today we stand here and thank our 1,311,716 fallen heroes for the ability to be able to stand
here and thank them, and we must always remember them and the sacrifice they made for us,
and how fortunate we are that they did that for us.
If we fail as American Citizens to cherish, protect and honor this gift then their sacrifice will have
been in vain.
Today we honor our 1,311,716 fallen heroes by flying the flag of the United States of America.
The red stripes symbolizing the blood they shed for our common good.
The white symbolizing the purity of their intent to protect our freedom.
The blue symbolizing their valor in the face of the enemy.
As the stepfather of a fallen hero I personally ask each one of you to please display the
American Flag at your home. Not just today, but every day.
Fly your flag in honor of the sacrifice of our fallen heroes.
Fly your flag in support of those who are currently serving and protecting your freedom.
Fly your flag because you are proud to be an American.
Fly your flag because you are free to do so.
Today and every day we are all free, and we have this freedom because of the sacrifice of our
1,311,716 fallen heroes.
I am humbled because of the sacrifice of my heroes.
Some of the inspiration came on the Saturday before Memorial Day. I was sitting on a park
bench in the shade down at Waterfront Park in Louisville. Your mom, Dottie, Heather, Aubrey,
Lincoln, Bobby and your dad were all participating in the Flags4Vets 5K walk. I couldn't walk
because of a bum knee.
Out on the great lawn the Flags4Vets group were placing small American flags in the ground in
the shape of the letters USA. There were many volunteers helping them place the flags, and
there were thousands of flags to plant. As I watched I saw a soldier dressed in BDU's and beret
planting flags with his young son and daughter. His wife was nearby with the baby in a stroller. I
was not close enough to hear him speak but I know what he was telling his children. He was
telling them about the heroes that the flags represent. He was telling them about his friends and
his brothers in arms who fell in the line of duty. He was teaching them about respect and honor.
He was teaching them to do the right thing.
And as he stood there watching, his children worked in his shadow placing the flags in the
ground in their innocent and child like way. And at that moment I understood that it was not his
physical stature that was blocking the sun and creating the shadow. The children were not
standing in his shadow, they were being covered by the blanket of freedom that was created by
his loyalty, honor and service to our country.
I never fully saw the big picture until now but now I can see it so clearly. You and your brothers
in arms are all a part of the fabric in the blanket of freedom that covers us all. You stood
between us and those who sought to take away our freedom and our lifestyle. And those who
serve today are still weaving the blanket and making sure that we are all tucked in safe and
This comes ten years overdue, but thank you Daniel for defending and protecting all of us and
our way of life. Because you saw the big picture and stepped up and served the rest of us could
go on with our daily routine and never feel the threat to our freedom and have to worry about
what life would be like without the freedoms we enjoy and take for granted today.
I used to be upset because life did not stop when we lost you. Things kept on moving, evolving
and changing all around me. I just wanted time to stop so that I could find answers and make
sense of what had happened but life just kept on rolling. Now I understand that life has to go on.
We have to go out and live each day to the fullest. We have to take advantage of the
opportunities that are provided by our freedom. If we don't do these things then you died in vain
and that would be too much of a burden to bear.
So if you look down from Heaven and you see us throwing a party or having a big wing ding
doodle, please don't shed a tear and think that we are not mourning your loss or that we don't
remember you. Understand that we do these things to honor you and your gift of freedom to us.
I promise you that for as long as I walk this earth you will never be forgotten and you will always
be my hero. I love you and I am so very proud of you.