Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Letter From Iraq, a Father's Mission to Carry On

About three weeks ago I was looking for an interactive map of the capitol square in the Wisconsin State Journal site and instead I found an interactive memorial day post about Wisconsin service members who had died in the previous year.
I looked at a few of them until I sat weeping at my desk. The story that started getting me worked up was the one that a daughter wrote about her dad. She wrote, "I thought it was going to be like any other trip: he leaves, he come back, he leaves, he comes back. But I was wrong." So by the time I got to the story about the 24 year old woman from Madison I was already cracked and it was just a matter of time before I would break. What got to me more than anything was her video letter home titled "Hi from Iraq."
I kept thinking about her parents and what they must be going through. Such a beautiful, apple-pie looking girl. I went back to work but I really haven't been able to stop thinking about her.
Tonight I was packing up to leave work and a colleague of mine, a City employee who takes care of the building, came in to check on things in the office. He remembered that last week I was in late one night finishing up a grant and he asked me if I would ever be willing to help out a group he's a member of with grant writing. I asked him what the group was and he told me that it's called Operation Never Forgotten, he's a member of it because his daughter, a medic in the Iraq war, died last October from wounds she sustained when her unit was attacked by improvised explosives. Turns out, as fate would have it, I was already familiar with the story. The WSJ article had led me to a YouTube search to an internet review. His sweet baby girl is the very 24 year old Rachel Hugo I had shed tears over just a few weeks before. I had no idea I already knew her father.
Mr. Hugo, doesn't need a $40 donation before I turn 50. He needs someone to write a grant NOW so that he and his wife and son can put up a billboard reminding people that their daughter, and people like her, died trying to help people. He told me that she wanted to help people in Iraq and she wanted to serve her country. She was due to come home in about a month when she was killed. She had already gone "on an on-line shopping spree" according to the newspapers. He told me she would have graduated this May with her RN degree and gone on to help more people. He told me that he promised her last time she was home on leave that if anything ever happened to her, he would carry on.

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