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Family Matters Blog: Child’s Tribute Stirs Emotion

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2011 – I was on call last weekend when the news broke about the downed helicopter in eastern Afghanistan. As the morning waned, it soon became clear that the nation had suffered a devastating loss.

Thirty U.S. service members and eight Afghans lost their lives in the Aug. 6 Chinook crash.

I was deeply saddened by the loss and for the loved ones left behind. But without a personal connection and with a job to do, I began to think of the fallen as a number to report rather than as individuals with faces and names.

For me, it took a child to humanize this terrible loss.

A 10-year-old who lost his father in the crash posted a picture of his dad on CNN’s iReport on Aug. 9 to ensure he wouldn’t be forgotten. His father was the pilot of the Chinook.

The picture shows his dad seated next to a four other soldiers. His father, he wrote, was the farthest to the left.

This heartfelt tribute since has gone viral, stirring up emotions across the nation. People have reached out to reassure this boy not only that his father wouldn’t be forgotten, but also that he’d be remembered as a hero.

I studied this picture and felt for this young boy, who would be growing up without a dad. And I thought about the selflessness and call to service that led his father to make the ultimate sacrifice for his nation.

I’m grateful for this child who took the time to honor his father in such a bold way. He reminded me that behind each loss, each tragedy of war, is a person with a rich past who is leaving behind a legacy of heroism and sacrifice.

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