Don’t Forget Snowballs For Memorial Day

Burgers, beer, sunscreen…on Memorial Day Weekend there’s shopping to do, beaches to umbrella and pools to cannonball. Even so, I’d like to suggest one more thing to the list: snowballs. Specifically, Snowball Express, a charity that serves the children of men and women who died serving our country. Since Memorial Day is meant to honor these men and women, doing something for their loved ones seems like a fine idea.

A Snowball’s chance

Snowball Express, “creates hope and new memories” for children of the fallen by organizing special events for them. It’s a chance for these kids to have fun and be with other kids in the same situation. Also, the families get to see that they are not forgotten or alone. Past events include baseball games, magic shows, and concerts.

Now you know

The number of people in active duty is small, about 1% of the population. So not everyone in the other 99% knows someone in the military. Sometimes, the meaning of Memorial Day can feel far away, like a history lesson instead of both our collective past and present. If that’s the case, I’d like you to know someone this day is for, Pfc Jesse Givens. I found his last letter to his family on the Snowball Express site. It inspired them even further in their work. It brought me to tears. (Reader note- if you have a loved one who is deployed right now, I’d skip to the next section.)

22-April-03

My family:

I never thought I would be writing a letter like this, I really don’t know where to start. I’ve been getting bad feelings though and well if you are reading this….

I am forever in debt to you, Dakota, and the bean. I searched all my life for a dream and I found it in you. I would like to think that I made a positive difference in your lives. I will never be able to make up for the bad. I am so sorry. The happiest moments in my life all deal with my little family. I will always have with me the small moments we all shared. The moments when you quit taking life so serious and smiled. The sounds of a beautiful boy’s laughter or the simple nudge of a baby unborn. You will never know how complete you have made me. Each and every one of you. You saved me from lonliness and taught me how to think beyond myself. You taught me how to live and to love. You opened my eyes to a world I never dreamed existed. I am proud of you. Stay on the path you chose. Never lose sight of what is important, you and our babies.

Dakota you are more son then I could ever ask for. I can only hope I was half the dad. I use to be your “danny” but no matter what it makes me proud that you chose me. You taught me how to care until it hurts, you taught me how to smile again. You taught me that life isn’t so serious and sometimes you have to play. You have a big beautiful heart. Through life you need to keep it open and follow it. Never be afraid to be yourself. I will always be there in our park when you dream so we can still play. I hope someday you will have a son like mine. Make them smile and shine just like you. I love you Toad I hope someday you will understand why I didn’t come home. Please be proud of me. Please don’t stop loving life. Take in every breath like it’s your first. I love you toad I will always be there with you. I’ll be in the sun, shadows, dreams, and joys of your life.

Bean, I never got to see you but I know in my heart you are beautiful. I know you will be strong and big hearted just like your mom and brother. I will always have with me the feel of the soft nudges on your moms belly, and the joy I felt when we found out you were on your way. I dream of you every night, I always will. Don’t ever think that since I wasn’t around that I didn’t love you. You were conceived of love and I came to this terrible place for love. I love you as I do your mom and brother with all my heart and soul. Please understand that I had to be gone so that I could take care of my family. I love you Bean.

I have never been so blessed as the day I met Melissa. You are my angel, soulmate, wife, lover, and best friend. I am sorry. I did not want to have to write this letter. There is so much more I need to say, so much more I need to share. A lifetime’s worth. I married you for a million lifetimes. That’s how long I will be with you. Please keep our babies safe. Please find it in your heart to forgive me for leaving you alone. Take care of yourself, believe in yourself, you are a strong, big hearted woman. Teach our babies to live life to its fullest tell yourself to do the same. Don’t forget to take Toad to Disney World. I will be there with you. Melissa I will always want you need you and love you in my heart, mind, and soul. Do me a favor, after you tuck Toad and Bean in, give them hugs and kisses from me. Go outside look at the stars and count them. Don’t forget to smile.

Love Always
Your husband
Jess

A Memorable Weekend

Here’s to making wonderful new memories this weekend and honoring some old ones. And I don’t know about you, but I’ll be having a Snowball with my burger.

Blue Sky

photo courtesy of Tinyspitcracker

© Gina left the mall, 2013

32 thoughts on “Don’t Forget Snowballs For Memorial Day

    • You know, gathering with friends and family is fun and that happiness is part of what our troops fight to protect. But within that happiness, I think there’s room to remember and appreciate. ESPECIALLY on a day dedicated to their greatest sacrifice. Even if it’s just a moment of silence, or a prayer, or raising a glass in a toast or as in my case— a snowball. Thank you for reading and caring and remembering them.

  1. Gina, like all the others here Jess’ letter reduced me to tears. He wrote so powerfully, beautifully and sincerely of his love of his family and his love of life. It breaks my heart that he was unable to see his son grow up and himself experience all the joys he spoke of in his letter. Every Memorial Day a friend of mine who’s a Vietnam Vet holds a vigil in a local park. This year we will especially be honoring a dear friend of ours, a WW2 veteran, who passed a few months ago at the age of 92. People read poems, sing songs, and share stories about their own or some family member’s military experience. Much of what we share does revolve around the tragedy and heartbreak of war.

    • It breaks my heart too when I think of all he and his family missed together. That’s why it matters to me that these families know that we stand with him. Your Memorial Day plans are a beautiful example of that kind of caring and support. I love that everyone gets to share their story (or their family member’s) Everyone knows for certain that they or the person they loved mattered very much to a wider circle. Sometimes a grateful heart and a thoughtful remembrance are all we can offer…and at times, that can mean very much.

  2. Well Gina you have done it again, I am sitting here crying and yet so appreciative of all of your dedication to our brave troops and their families. You continue to be an inspiration to everyone through your love and caring of people. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

    • Ginger, thank you for your kind words. I don’t mean to make people cry (though that letter….it’s impossible not to) but I do hope that readers feel moved or a little more connected to the troops and their families. I hope that getting to know Jesse, Denise, Sgt.K , Col. Mike or any of the others I’ve written about, will help those not serving to better understand those that do. If I’m lucky, that understanding will lead to more love and caring. And we can never have too much of that.

  3. This is a 5 tissue story! We all cry because it is such a heart-breaking story. It makes you want to jump in there and do something to make it all better. It is not always easy to know what you can do, but if each one of us will vow to do just one thing special for our troops, just think what a difference we could make with so much help!!! Thank you for the many things you do for our military men and women. You are such an inspiration!! I vow to get busy and figure out what I personnelly could do!………I will let you know how it goes!

    • Nana, I know what you mean by the, “jump in there” feeling. And I am trying to imagine your idea of each person doing just one thing for our troops. Since civilians vastly outnumber them, that would be an epic amount of kindness to unleash and yes, make quite the difference!

      I also know that you have already gone above and beyond in so many ways for our servicemen and women. You have been busy for years! Of course, I 100% support the idea of taking action. Whatever you chose to do will be wonderful. If I can help in any way, just let me know. And thank you for all you do.

  4. Pingback: At the End of the Day All We Have is Who We Are- A Memorial Day Tribute | Buoyed Up

  5. Oh, Gina, Jess’s letter was so moving. I read it while trying to imagine having to even write a letter like that. The Snowball Express is a very worthwhile organization. Happy Memorial Day to you, your family, and all your adopted troops, Gina.

    • It’s very moving. I can’t imagine having to write a “just in case” letter…trying to say everything you want and good-bye while attempting to comfort and inspire your loved ones at the same time. It’s heartbreaking. I’m so glad that an organization like Snowball Express exists. I hope you have a happy memorial day too and thank you for not forgetting those that help ensure our happiness every day.

  6. Reblogged this on Kami's Beautiful Morning and commented:
    Memorial Day conjurs picnics, boating, family get-together’s, barbecues and the launch of another summer. Hopefully, after you read this post by a fellow blogger, you’ll include, if not highlight, the real gifts and reasons behind this holiday.

  7. Thanks, Gina, for sharing Pfc. Jesse Givens’ incredible letter. For those who might be interested, you can learn more about Pfc. Givens and his beautiful family (particularly his unbelievably strong wife Melissa) in both Jim Sheeler’s book Final Salute and the HBO documentary “Last Letters Home.” I highly recommend both–as well as copious boxes of tissues.

    Remember The Fallen.

    • It is beautiful and powerful. After I read it, I noticed the date and felt another wave of emotion. The daughter he never met would be 10yrs old now. My daughter is 8 and I suddenly felt, in very real terms, all of the moments they both lost. And yes, it was an honor and so very generous of the family to share this.

        • That’s wonderful! As you can see, I am trying to do what I can for the young men and women who serve. They go through a lot and their families do too..as Pfc Jesse Givens’ beautiful and heartbreaking letter details.

          But whatever and however one choose to take action on your third list item, I think there can never be too much kindness in the world.

          • Agreed. Our NGO actually conducts shortterm trainings to the young people and puts them into entry level jobs. We have sofar put 800 youths in jobs and they are earning pretty well too. Thanks once again for taking time.

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