Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Last Memorial


This was the last memorial held for Jalfred at the church me and him used to attended together, before the Army days. It's the church I grew up in, the church I knew so well.. the church now seemed all so unfamiliar after Jalfred passed. I wanted to be able to speak about Jalfred, I had to. Jalfred's mother, best friend, close friends, and Major spoke as well, they painted a beautiful picture of who Jalfred was. I wanted everyone to know the man that he was to me and this was my last opportunity to do so in a setting like this. This is the speech I wrote for the last memorial: 


"The story of Jalfred and I began in High School. It wasn’t until our senior year that we began to really get to know each other. We both were working in the landscaping department that year. He always caught my eye and waved to me while he was riding on the lawn mower. He would pull-up to the grounds shop, blasting reggaeton and looking really cool. Our first encounter together at work involved us finding an injured bat on campus, and him trying to save it. As the semester went on our friendship grew stronger.  Not long after, we went on our first real date. Little did I know this was the man I was supposed to share my life with.


Graduation day finally arrived and with it came the next step of our lives. We only had a short time before the decisions for our future had to be made. Jalfred had always expressed a desire to be a police officer, he actually wanted to work on a SWAT team. He wanted to be the best-of-the-best. His dream was to protect others. This led Jalfred to make the decision to join the Army that summer. He felt compelled to serve his country and be associated with the honor that comes with serving in the military. He wanted to make his family and friends proud of him. Jalfred always made our relationship a priority, so before committing to serve, he asked me if it would be ok…I said yes. If only I knew then, what I know now.


When Jalfred left to serve in the Army, it was hard on us both. We had spent every moment together prior to his departure. Even though we were far apart and couldn’t talk every day, we found ways to overcome the distance. Jalfred and I exchanged many letters. I still remember the excitement of getting the very first letter he wrote me while he was in basic training. The contents of his letters included a hint at a possible marriage proposal when he came home and a lot of “I miss yous.” It wasn’t until his Army graduation that I learned Jalfred had to do extra push-ups for getting so many letters from back home. After his training and graduation, Jalfred had two weeks off to come home. The very next weekend, he asked me to be his wife as we watched the sunset at our favorite place. Without hesitation, I said “YES!” The summer of 2011 came and went in what felt like the blink-of-an-eye. We took trips to visit each other as much as we possibly could, living the best moments of our lives together before Jalfred was deployed to Afghanistan on September 19, 2011. 



Afghanistan was not an easy place to be, but Jalfred was known for carrying-out his duties without complaints. He told me how they used water bottles to shower, a cardboard box for a toilet, and a cramped tent space for living quarters…He went on several missions back-to-back with no sleep. His last months on earth weren’t spent comfortably. Even though it was difficult, through all his hardships over there, Jalfred would tell me about how he felt they were really making a difference for the Afghan people. Jalfred died while trying to protect a clinic from enemy combatants in the village.



I asked some of Jalfred’s brothers-in-arms in Afghanistan and his close high school friends to describe Jalfred in one word, aside from the two obvious ones: “handsome,” and “shy.”
They described him as “brave”; “steady”; “humble”; “honorable”; “selfless”; “loyal”; “subtle” “a jokester”; “hilarious”; “noble”; “happy”; “respectful”; “competitive”; “caring”; “a true friend”; and “a brother”
One of the soldiers in his unit described him as “the skinniest fat person he knew,” because there was rarely a moment he didn’t have a pop-tart in his mouth. They also said that he argued his religion and stood up for what he believed. They described him as a “role model.”


Since Jalfred was already in Afghanistan, I was already missing him terribly…but to know that I’ll be missing him for the rest of my life is far worse than I could have ever imagined. I’ll miss the little things about him. I’ll miss his love for New York style cheesecake, fruit juice, and the color green. I’ll miss his adorable laugh, the delicious caramel pancakes he’d make in the mornings, our tickle fights, I’ll miss watching him play video games, and the funny things he would say. I’ll miss our movie marathons; yes, I’ll even miss when he would give me a hard time. I’ll miss how he opened every door for not only me, but his mother too. I’ll miss his surprises and the way he smiled. I’ll miss the details that made Jalfred the brave, strong, and wonderful man he was. I’ll miss all of those things, and I’ll miss-out on the long life that we were suppose to have together. I’ll never be able to grow old with my best friend. 


Jalfred taught me a great deal of things in his life. He taught me to not take life so seriously, he taught me that it’s ok to laugh at myself, he taught me to hope and dream, he taught me teamwork,  he taught me generosity, he taught me how to trust, he brought me closer to God, but most importantly, he taught me how to love. Even in his death he is still teaching me…he has taught me selflessness and sacrifice.
Jalfred was a hero from the start. He always was watching out for the ones he loved, saving them from any harm or hardships. Now that he has made the ultimate sacrifice, he is a hero to us all, a hero to the United States of America. There are only two kinds of people willing to die for you; Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for our freedom. Let us NEVER forget.


CHALLENGE:
Today, I want to hold each and every one of US to two challenges:
 First, I challenge US to love the people you cherish in your life, now, while they’re still living and to honor those who are no longer with us. Tomorrow isn’t promised, the people you love most today may not be there tomorrow. I can testify to that. I ask you to remember and honor Jalfred as the hero he was.


 Jalfred’s Army career began January 10th, 2011 and ended December 10th, 2011, when the enemy attacked. If you knew Jalfred well, you would oftentimes hear him saying the phrase “I will defeat you in combat.”  My second challenge to us is to not let this nightmare defeat our faith, rather, defeat the evil force that did this to Jalfred. We can’t let the devil win this battle. I know Jalfred wouldn’t. So… my challenges are for us to love and to always remember that one day, when Jesus comes, after the holy war, all evil will perish, and standing next to Jalfred we can look down at Satan and yell “we defeated YOU in combat.”

2 comments:

  1. Beautiful, Katie! You did an amazing job giving your speech that day, and it made me tear up to read it again. Love you.

    Paige

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  2. I did not know how you did it. You had such strength and grace. Jalfred would have been so proud of you. One day I hope to be half as strong as you are.

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