It was a warm April morning and I had just arrived at Arlington National Cemetery to review the markers in Section 60. I was there on my monthly pilgrimage to update my website data base. While my attention was centered on the new temporary markers, I could not help but notice one of the permanent markers that had been recently decorated.
April 14th would have been Joshua Brent McDaniel’s 22nd birthday. His beloved family had lost him the previous June. Joshua was a Lance Corporal in the Marines and had been serving in Afghanistan as a combat engineer. His mission was to detect and detonate roadside bombs left by insurgents. His mission ended on June 12th, 2011.
The newspaper accounts of June 13th were filled with stories of a courageous young man who grew up in central Ohio. His uncle related how Joshua “was the kind of person who didn’t wait for life to happen, he made it happen”. He described Joshua as “hilarious, charismatic, generous and respectful.” The newspapers went on to recount how Joshua had been a star high school football player and wrestler. They told of Joshua’s family and the young widow he left behind.
What the newspapers could not possibly capture was the love of Joshua’s mom for her son. I was privileged to glimpse a moment of it on that warm morning in April, when at Joshua’s grave I witnessed something heartbreakingly beautiful. Neatly hanging on a on a wire support next to LCPL McDaniel’s grave marker was a simple plaque that read “I love and miss you so much. “heart” Mommy. Forever my hero”. The plaque gently swayed in the morning breeze, like the tender caress of a mother.
This is well written and a beautiful tribute to Joshua McDaniels and his family and to all of us who care. His mother is part of a group of Marine MoMs that I belong to and I will never forget the day we learned of Joshua’s death. It is a story that has stayed with me ever since. I think of him often. His mother taught me of what a family goes through and how important it is to honor their memory and never forget. Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute.