If you’re a parent, you know that lot can happen in 48 months. The first 48 months are full of learning, of growth, and of firsts. First steps, first foods, first trip to the beach, first time riding a bike, first teeth, first time splashing in puddles. I’m sure you remember many of your child’s “firsts” without having to look back in a book.
July 2009 was 48 months ago. It is one of my favorite months ever. The Boy was born and The Texan and I began our parenting journey. We’ve been so blessed with many happy memories since then, and have marked more milestones that I ever thought possible. For another family, July 2009 meant that they would be marking more milestones than they thought possible, too.
On July 23, 2009, USMC Lance Corporal Nicholas Xiarhos was killed while fighting for our freedom in Garmsir, Afghanistan. I’ve told you part of Nick’s story before, you might recall that he was a Squad Automatic Weapons (SAW) Gunner, Squad Leader with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Weapons Company based at Camp Lejune, North Carolina. At the time of his death, was just 21 years old. He still had so many firsts left to experience; instead his family is experiencing firsts they never thought they would.
The first Thanksgiving without Nick. The first Christmas without Nick. Celebrating the Marine Corps’ birthday without Nick. Marking Nick’s birthday in February without him. Too many firsts.
Nick was so full of life, with so much of life to still live.
It’s been 48 months since Nick was taken from us. In that time, his father has organized Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen, a motorcycle ride to honor all of Cape Cod’s fallen heroes. It takes place in July, and bikers from around the country and across the oceans have come to honor the memory of those lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Did you see my Instagram feed on Saturday? I was sharing photos from my viewing spot – the bridge named in Nick’s honor and from the event at Flax Pond. It was amazing to see so many strangers unite for such a wonderful cause.
I took off my bracelet for the first time on that bridge.
Just before the first motorcycles came across the bridge, the bagpipers set up and began playing.
Here come the first few riders!
And the Gold Star families!
After the 600 or so riders passed by, we moved to a local recreation area for food, music, merchandise tents, and time to connect with many families.
Here’s Janine Lutz, her son Johnny Lutz suffered from PTSD and took his own life in January 2013.
I presented Nick’s dad with a memorial hoop that my lovely friend Alyson, from Vintage Sunshine, created.
If you think you recognize the man in the cowboy hat, you probably do. He was known for a while as “Cowboy Carlos” – he saved Jeff Bauman’s life during the Boston Marathon tragedy. Carlos lost one son in Iraq, and his other son took his own life.
Also at the event was a representative from the Tribute Flight. Go check it out.
The event was a wonderful tribute and celebrated the lives of the soldiers from Cape Cod who sacrificed their lives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is an honor to attend and to be present with such strong, inspiring people.
Nick’s father, Steve, shared this quote today:
“Each of you has your own story. And that story is now part of the history of the United States of America—a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar; from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar. You teach us that the price of freedom is great. Your sacrifice should challenge all of us—every single American—to ask what we can do to be better citizens.”
What are you doing to be a better citizen?