There has been so much loss over the years that I have chosen Marine Sergeant Denton to represent them all in my respects. Sergeant "Chesty" Denton USMC was killed outside of Zaku in northern Iraq during Desert Storm operations in Kurdish held territory. He had an abnormally protruding lower jaw and his fellow Marines affectionally nick named him "Chesty" after the Marine Hero and legend Gen Chesty Puller. Sgt Denton never complained and though he would not ever be described as a poster board Marine, his favorite saying was "Can do easy" and I liked him. He was assigned to run security on a water truck resupply mission which should have been routine and I never thought the assignment would be his last and his death affects me even today. I was a young Marine First Lieutenant at the time and had the honor of escorting his body from northern Iraq to the Turkish port of Iskenderun and when I returned the Battalion they had moved into a former Iraqi Regimental HQ in Muqbal Iraq and named the camp in his honor where I am standing in this photo. Sergeant Denton was from New York state if I remember correctly and had only a father as his next of kin but Sergeant Denton..you are not forgotten and though I think of you often....I honor you today.
This is my grandfather Captain W.I. Swanston USCG, pilot and veteran of WWII who had so much influence on my life. My interest in serving was largely due to spending summers with him in Michigan growing up and he has been gone now for 15 years but not forgotten and I was given the honor by my father of being presented his officer's sword when he passed and it hangs next to my own in our farmhouse.
Master Sergeant Bob "Popcorn" Hudgins is my former father in law and he passed about a year ago. He was a quiet man who had a simple dignity that will not be forgotten and we miss him.
And we honor those who served but are still living. My ex-wife and still friend former Army Specialist the former Mary S. Lankes. Anyone who knows Mary knows she is a gentle soul and its hard to picture her in the Army but she served and she sure looked cute in her BDUs!
We honor favorite daughter Jenny's partner and former Sergeant Steve Schafer veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are very glad you have come into our family.
And those still serving. Our oldest son former Staff Sergeant Andrew Swanston, veteran of the Hurricane Katrinina emergency response and Operation Iraqi Freedom....who is now..
Tech Sergeant Andrew Swanston and a C-17 Load Master
And our youngest son former Specialist and currently Senior Airman Alex Swanston, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a very interesting deployment to Japan (you would have to ask him about that one!)
The three of us served in Operation Iraqi Freedom at the same time and I was priviledged to see them often and be proud of their fine soldiering. I can think of nothing in my life that could top that and I am very proud of both of them.
And finally, I honor my beloved wife and partner Holly who encouraged me to quit a high paying job after 9/11 and re-enlist at the age of 42 and who encouraged our two boys to do the same when they made that decision. She was left taking care of the homestead in Alaska during a winter of record breaking snow and cold, she had the worry of the three of us in a combat zone at the same time, and though I sent these small tokens on Valentines day while we were in Iraq, she faithfully persevered through that 18 months and to me the families of our service men and women are serving along side their Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine and are vitally important to combat effectiveness.
In this family we have not forgotten the fallen, those who have served, those who are currently serving or their families.