BY VIRGINIA CODY
“If you read this, I couldn’t make it home….I died serving the great country we live in…I am very proud to have a part in such a noble cause.”
So said Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Daniel L. Arnold to his parents in a letter he wrote to them just prior to his departure forIraqin 2005.
Only two months after he arrived in that country, his Bradley Fighting Vehicle was attacked by indirect enemy fire. He and four other young men were killed: Staff Sgt. George A. Pugliese; Sgt. Eric W. Slebodnik, Spc. Lee Wiegand and Pfc. Oliver J. Brown. Less than two weeks before that, Spc. Bill Evans was also killed.
“Six years,” his father Kendall Arnold said Monday with tears in his eyes. “It doesn’t go away.”
But, you learn to live with it, his wife Janet added.
You relish the memories and grab hold of those around you who’ve helped you endure the pain.
In theArnolds’ case, that means family, their other son, their two daughters, and their nine grandchildren.
And Janet said that they find some degree of comfort in the local community that has never forgotten their son’s sacrifice.
A walking track was named in his honor,Kendallsaid. A memorial was established at the Great Bend I-81 rest stop.
Further, Janet added, there’s a wider community out there paying homage to her son.
The American Gold Star Mothers created banners of fallen servicemen and women, Daniel included. And they created a wall of honor inHarrisburg.
“There are so many things that have touched us,” she said.
And she can’t ever forget the families of the other soldiers killed with her son.
“Our families will always have a bond,” she said. “That can’t ever go away.”
The connection, she said, might be that with the National Guard, most of the families are from small rural communities.
With the National Guard, she said, her family is still a part of everything they do.
As Veterans’ Day approaches, and with the news thatU.S.troops will be returning fromIraqbefore the end of the year, memories of Daniel are never far from the surface.
And through their ever-present grief, both Kendall and Janet said they have always been so proud of their son.
“Daniel excelled at everything,”Kendallsaid. “He was platoon leader. He was a Mason.”
“I know he went with his eyes open,” Janet said. “But he did it. That was his duty. Knowing that it was possible he wasn’t coming back.”
“He was a loving father, a loving son. He loved his country.
“He was the best.”
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