May 26th, 2008
09:55 AM ET

My son, our last conversation, his lasting legacy...

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/25/art.jesse.strong.on.patrol.jpg caption="Marine Sgt. Jesse Strong."]

Vicki Strong
Proud Gold Star Mother of Marine Sgt. Jesse Strong, Killed in Action 1/26/05

Growing up as a young girl in a large suburban town in the 60's and 70's, I had no experience honoring Memorial Day as it should be recognized. I have no memories of being introduced to proud veterans who had served our country, and I had no knowledge of, or appreciation for, what my freedom had cost thousands of men and women throughout history.

How dramatically my life was changed when my son graduated from Marine Corps boot camp just two weeks before September 11, 2001, and I suddenly realized that our freedom is defended and protected by brave, proud, young soldiers like my Marine son. I was learning to not take for granted so many things about our lives that we as Americans don't even think about...our form of government, our freedom to worship, to shop, to be educated, to work, and live quiet peaceful lives in our own homes...

One week before the first Iraqi election in January of 2005 my son called us from Iraq to let us know that he would be busy securing the polls for their anticipated election day. It was our last conversation, as four days later headlights drove up our driveway in northern Vermont on a cold January night, and two solemn looking Marines got out and stood at our door. We knew instantly why they were there and what they had come to tell us.

Our brave son, Marine Sgt. Jesse Strong, along with three other fine Marines, had been killed by a rocket propelled grenade in an ambush during a night mission.

While we were experiencing our first agonizing days and nights of grief, and as we were anxiously waiting for our son's body to be returned to us from Iraq, the Iraqi people tentatively stepped out of their homes for the first time to vote and take some of their first baby steps of freedom. Our son died helping an oppressed people to gain that freedom, and he died proudly serving his country.

As winters are cold In Vermont, and the ground is frozen in January, we had to wait until May to bury our son's body. We chose Memorial Day of 2005 for his burial, and many of his Marine Corps comrades, who served with him in Iraq, were able to attend and be his pallbearers.

Now on Memorial Day, I not only remember our son and his ultimate sacrifice for freedom, but the many men and women who have served and are presently serving our country for the cause of freedom in the world.

The precious cost of freedom is utmost on my mind and heart every day as we mourn the loss of our son. Our freedom is awesome, and it should not be taken lightly by those of us who enjoy it's blessings. Memorial Day is a reminder to us as Americans to be thankful for the men and women who have given their greatest treasure - their lives - to protect us and to defend us, so that we can lead abundant lives of our choosing. May we never take that price for granted.

Remembering our troops... and
how you can help...

Filed under: Memorial Day
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Michael, NC

    Wow Mike...thats really the time or place.

    May 27, 2008 at 12:39 am |
  2. Annie Kate


    Your son was a very brave man and I know that you will always be proud of him and will always miss him. Someone once said that the cost of freedom was "very dear" – your story reminds me of just how high that cost is. My best wishes are with you and your family.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 26, 2008 at 8:15 pm |
  3. Jolene

    Vicki: I couldn't have said it any better. People will say they support the troops but not the war and yet it is the cost of war that has given people freedom. What a touching story, thanks for sharing it.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    May 26, 2008 at 12:56 pm |
  4. Mike in NYC

    "Our son died helping an oppressed people to gain that freedom, and he died proudly serving his country."

    She used the word "freedom" nine times in her essay. That is not why her son died, I'm sorry to say.

    He died helping to make the Middle East safe for Israel, or oil (valid arguments exist either way). In terms of strictly American interests, he died for nothing.

    I get the impression that he had no children. I hope his parents have other kids to keep their line going. If not, it would just make this tragedy that much worse.

    All this being said, I wish his parents all the best.

    May 26, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
  5. Susan


    Your son, Jesse was a brave man and we should all be very proud of him. He served his country with pride and honor. He paid the ultimate sacrifice. Jesse like many heros before him have fought to keep the freedoms that we hold so dear in this country.

    I want to thank you for reminding everyone what these heros are fighting for. It seems to get lost in this political climate.

    I want to thank you for the fine son you raised and his service to our nation. My thoughts had prayers are with you and your family on this Memorial Day. I will be attending a Memorial Day event later today. I will keep you son, Jesse in my thoughts


    May 26, 2008 at 11:22 am |
  6. Lesli


    Bless you and your son for bringing freedom to Iraq. I am an Canadian, and our soldiiers are in Afgahnistan. I have a 21 year old son who is currently making a decision whether or not to enlist in our armed forces here. It is hard to stand back and let him make the descision.

    In Canada, we celebrate Remembrance Day on the eleven day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour for both our dead and living soldiers. It used to be a holiday for schools, government workers and banks, but more recently this has been changed. School children have assemblies and some of the last vets from WWII speak to the children. Our communities celebrate the lives lost by placing wreaths and many of our vets meet in halls with their former buddies from combat to remeber their service.

    We are as proud of our soldiers and vets as you are in your country. Please remeber there are other countries who serve in these wars as well. We may not have enough troups to be in both Afgahnastan and Iraq, but Canadians believe in what you are doing, and hope to bring a better life to the other isolated and suppressed peoples in other areas around the globe where our soldiers serve.

    God bless you and the families around the world who have given up their loved ones to the cause of freedom.

    May 26, 2008 at 11:11 am |
  7. Michael, NC

    I am sure your loss takes its toll on every birthday, every date of his death, and every night before you go to bed. I thank you for your son's support in the spread of freedom across the globe and in our own beautiful nation. His life was not given in vain. He did what he knows best, and that is to protect and serve, and to change the future of other nations in an attempt to spread the grace of our nation to theirs. God bless...

    May 26, 2008 at 10:39 am |