Every Memorial Day, for the last 12 years, I dig up an old copy of a story I wrote on Memorial Day in 2009. It involves a young man I had never met, and who would forever be a total stranger to me.
He was a hero. A husband. A Dad. And an example of the true meaning of Memorial Day that I will never, ever, forget.
Here’s the story:
On this Memorial Day, I find myself thinking of a Marine I never met. And never will.
His name was James. R. McIlvaine. He grew up in Olney, Md., and his mother lives in Purcellville. He was killed in Iraq on April 30 while saving the life of another. He was 26 years old, and the father of two children.
Unfortunately, most of us see news like this every day in the newspaper. We pause, read the details, feel for the family, then turn the page and move on. We don’t dwell on it for too long, because it is inevitable that another face, another name, and another set of circumstances regarding a battlefield casualty will be in the paper in a few more days.
This one was different, because not long afterward my phone rang. McIlvaine had a rather large immediate family, including three sets of grandparents, and the local VFW wanted to make the trip from Purcellville to Arlington Cemetery as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Four SUVs had been secured (two donated for the day by Ray Glembot at Star Pontiac GMC in Leesburg) and a police escort would be provided.
What they needed was one more driver. Could I spare the day, I was asked, to drive one of the vehicles?
The answer, obviously, was “of course.”