Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorializing Sgt. Shawn Graham

Memorial Day 2006 was especially important this year for the Graham family. This military family from Grove City knows the importance of the holiday, but this year, they remember one of their own. Shawn Graham was killed in Iraq last year.

Flashback: Shawn Graham remembered

This Memorial Day, the Herald (Sharon, PA) had a write-up about Shawn. Staff writer Tom Davidson crafted a really touching piece.
The flat tombstone at Crestview Memorial Park in Pine Township is surrounded by monuments marking the graves of members of the Greatest Generation. Those World War II veterans were among Sgt. Shawn A. Graham’s heroes.

“They put him right there by the big flag pole,” Graham’s mom Kathy said. “That would make him so proud.” His father sure is. Tom Graham is a Vietnam veteran and former Marine who served in the National Guard before retiring last year when he turned 60.

Tears well in his eyes as he talks about his son. “He always wanted to be in the military,” Tom said.

Shawn’s mom put it differently: “He was probably born to be a warrior.”

He was born in 1971 when Tom was stationed in California. Tom’s unit named the younger Graham an honorary Marine.

The allure of the military stayed with him as he grew up, his parents said. As a Boy Scout his favorite game was “capture the flag” — a war game for kids — and after he graduated from Grove City High in 1989 he enrolled at Slippery Rock University, then joined the National Guard.

He wanted to do more, however, and decided to become a Marine.

“When he went down to join the Marines, he wanted infantry,” Tom said. “It’s something the recruiter tried to talk him out of because he did so well on the ASVAB (the military achievement test), but he got his way.” He spent a decade in the corps, then he moved to Texas where he worked for MCI.

After 9/11 he was reactivated, served a year, then enlisted in the National Guard, where he was a decorated sharpshooter. “He still had his sense of duty,” Tom said.

He married Jeannette Vilalpando on Aug. 12, 2004 while living in Texas. Shawn called and said he was going to marry Jeannette “so if anything was to happen” she’d be taken care of. “I think he knew something was going to happen to him,” Kathy said.

He was the latest member of his family to serve oversees in the War on Terror. His brother Nicholas, who serves in the Marines, was with the initial tank battalion that stormed into Baghdad. Dad Tom had served in Afghanistan.

Shawn finally got the chance to go to Iraq in January 2005. “Don’t doubt the Graham,” was one of his favorite sayings, Kathy said.

“He was happy to be a soldier, happy to serve in Iraq and was happy to be doing what he was doing,” she said. Shawn felt for the Iraqi people and wanted to make a difference. “Shawn said ‘Mom, we’re lucky living the way we do,’ ” after he saw the living conditions in Iraq.

He said he was going to send money home so his mom could buy clothes at the Salvation Army and send them back so he could distribute them. She told him to keep his money and sent boxes of supplies to him for the Iraqi people.

“That’s the kind of person he was,” Kathy said. “He was a leader, he always thought of things to do.”

The rest of the article can be found here. It is definitely worth reading to see what kind of patriot Shawn was, and what kind of family the Grahams are.

A companion piece can be found here. Also a must-read.

Thanks again, Shawn for all you have done for this country.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shawn, it was an honor to serve with you, thanks for keeping the team safe in the red zone, I'll never forget you.