From Patricia Flanagan, Mother

I am Patricia Flanagan. My husband and I are the parents of three children. Our oldest child Jenn and her husband Charlie, both serve with the U.S. Navy. His ship was part of the flotilla in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea that contributed to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Next in line is Marissa who just finished her tour of active duty with the National Guard. Her husband Rodney just returned from his second tour in Iraq. He also served in Afghanistan. Our youngest child and only son, Sgt. Dennis James Flanagan was killed during his second tour in Iraq on Friday January 20, 2006.

​Our military is an all-volunteer force. These man and women volunteered to serve our country. They gave up the right to say "no thanks - I think I will sleep in today" during their training. They gave up their right to say "no thanks - I'd rather not go to the theater of operations at this time" when they put on the uniform. They are putting their lives on hold and on the line for US.
Among the writings I found in my son's things were these words:
I am that which others did not want to be
​I am that which others did not want to be
I go where others dare not go
I fight when others turn and flee
I stand when weak and die alone
I've tasted the sweetness of victory's breath
I've felt the stinging chill of fear
I've heard grown men reduced to tears

You should know about the losses that every member of our armed forces is willing to endure for us. They endure the loss of physical, mental and spiritual well-being, loss of a good nights sleep because dreams become nightmares, and even the loss of life.

These men and women along with their families are wretched each time they take leave of each other. But they still go.

If they are lucky, they return to an intact family who will help them transition into life here in the states again. They will be able to find the training and jobs that will enable them to live the American dream they fought for. Sometimes, the doorway to the American dream is blocked by the very success of the programs designed to help them. Waiting lists are long for many colleges, academies, and training courses which they desire to attend. In the meantime, they must put food on the table, pay the power company, mortgage, or rent, buy gasoline to get to their "tide me over" jobs. They do so without the public ever hearing, and without compliant. Sometimes their scars do not show, the eye cannot see them.

Again I will read from the writings among my son's things - this one returned with his belongings:

Once more we've come to face the beast,

with fresh souls on which to feast.

The sands, the sights, the smells are all the same

feeling my heart with great pain.

Sometimes the soldier dies. The loss is also part of the cost of war. The family, friends, and community has lost something with each loss. The permanence of this last loss hits all of us very hard.

Sgt. Dennis James Flanagan was killed in Al Hawijah, Iraq when an improvised explosive device was detonated under the humvee he was riding in. He was one of four who died that morning in January in the same explosion.

He was six years old the first time I heard him say he decided he would enter the military. Desert Storm was fought when he was eight. I made him watch the news because I didn't want him to think war was like the John Wayne movies where the good guys don't die. It was important to let him know that war is not video game and that good people fighting the good fight - can and do die. Still he persisted. He became an avid reader of all things relating to the United States' military, wars and history.

Many of his comrades mentioned his knowledge of these things and weapons when they wrote to us. That made him the go-to-guy when a dispute arose among those in his unit about such things. He was willing to share his knowledge with any who asked. The other thing they all mentioned was his humor. The Flan, as his men called him, laughter administrated daily in large doses was the best medicine.

Dennis wanted to teach history. He thought in examining the good and bad in our personal, communal and national history we could know where we've been Only then could we know where we wanted to go and how to get there.

Still he wrote of his death in many of his writings:

I give my life for my homeland,

I'll die a quick death.

Leading my men up the beach,

giving all I have with my last breath.

This flag lies folded on her gentle lap,

the guns salute volleys with a clap.

The lonely notes of a bugle sound,

as all her hopes go to ground,

while on her despair pounds.

She loved him dearly for that she pays,

a grateful nation does little to sway.

All she's lost it feels so cold,

no longer her soldier will she hold.

What you should know about today's military is these men and women have other choices, they chose to serve America; to serve us. They face the losses their service requires of them because they believe in America's ideals. They are not eager to die for their country. Yet they think we are worth even that sacrifice.

My son and his friends were singing the song "Arlington" by Trace Adkins the last weekend before they deployed to Iraq. The line they sang the loudest is: "We're thankful for those thankful for the things we've done..."

Let us remember to show our gratitude to those who have served.

Thank you,
Patricia Flanagan