“Monday, May 27 is once again Memorial Day in America. Like us, many will gather as families and visit the grave of a loved one. I like that tradition, and we will once again do that in memory of Jeremy…” Five and a half years ago, we lost our youngest son Jeremy to an aggressive form of lymphoma, or cancer. It was about five months between when his condition was first diagnosed and his death at age 42. He left a wife and three young children.
During the summer of his illness I received a brief but sensitive letter from a man in Michigan assuring us that we were in his prayers. Later, as Jeremy got worse, another short note came from the man, reading, “Praying daily for your son.” He added, “May God grant you great grace.” He also included a tract with the story of his own son.
Gabe (for Gabriel) was a truly exemplary young man in so many ways. Born in 1981, he was raised in Paw Paw, where he learned strong values from both his family and his church. When he was entering his 20s, the events of 9/11 in New York unfolded, and he decided he wanted to serve his country. So he enlisted in the Army.
Now let me quote directly from the tract:
All who knew Gabe were impressed with his gentle smile, calm demeanor and genuine care for others. He was always more concerned about the well-being of his men than he was about himself.
He met Hannah Suko at a Bible study he attended shortly after arriving in the Tacoma area. It was his first time to attend and it was going to be her last she thought. Hannah and Gabe hit it off, she continued with the group and they eventually made plans for marriage after his first deployment to Iraq. They felt God had “brought the pieces together” at just the right time.
Nearly every day he would write or call Hannah. He would send flowers on special occasions even though he was half a world away. He also carried a letter to her on him just in case something happened.
Well, you can probably tell where this is going. Gabe and Hannah were married right after he returned from his first deployment. In fact, they were able to buy a small house with money he saved while serving his country, and soon Little Gabe blessed their home. Then in June of 2006 his brigade was called back to Iraq.
Sadly, on August 21, 2006, two army chaplains brought Hannah news that her husband had been killed in Mosel by sniper fire. One can only imagine how her life was affected, plus that of Gabe’s parents and siblings. And now his dear father was writing to me in the late summer of 2013, assuring me of his daily prayers.
How incredibly sensitive this was on his behalf.
Monday, May 27 is once again Memorial Day in America. Like us, many will gather as families and visit the grave of a loved one. I like that tradition, and we will once again do that in memory of Jeremy.
But the day was set aside by our government for us as a people to also express our gratitude for special people like Gabe De Roo, who not only enlisted in our armed forces but gave his life serving our country.
Among his things returned after his death was a book of military sayings. A quote from Manning Coles read, “If a country is worth living in, it is worth fighting for.” Gabe wrote in the margin, “Right on the money.”
Though I never met him, I have decided I will honor Gabe’s memory this Memorial Day 2019. Maybe this is something you might think about as well, regarding a “Gabe De Roo” of your own.
Read Dr. KP Yohannan Metropolitan’s thoughts on the power of encouragement and find ways, like Gabe’s dad did, to reach out to others.