According to The Associated Press, Todd Weaver's idea of a romantic gift was not jewelry, roses or mushy cards. He preferred unique fancy gifts, for example, the time he celebrated the 21st birthday of his wife, Emma, by taking her skydiving.
The AP went on to say that Todd and Emma met in high school in Virginia. He was a popular baseball and football star. Right before leaving for a tour of duty in Iraq via his service in the National Guard, he ran outside in the rain in his socks to give Emma a kiss goodbye.
After Todd returned from his tour, the couple were inseparable. Todd joined the ROTC while attending the College of William & Mary. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 2008. Todd and Emma married and had a beautiful daughter, Kiley, who was only 9 months old when her father left for his second deployment to Afghanistan.
On Sept. 9, 2010, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Todd W. Weaver, 26, who was assigned to 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky., died serving his country in Afghanistan when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Weaver was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
WTKR in Williamsburg, Va., reported that since Todd was killed in action last September, his widow, Emma, and his parents, Don and Jeanne Weaver, have been seeking to preserve his memory and sacrifice by raising money for a memorial scholarship in his name at William & Mary, an award that will fund a study abroad trip for a student every year. So far, they have raised $40,000 of the $50,000 needed to endow the scholarship.
It chaps my hide when people today belittle our military or say America doesn't have young people who display the brazen courage of men of old when our service members continue willfully to place themselves in harm's way and defend freedom to the point of death.
Last year, my wife, Gena, and I visited West Point, where the thousands of young cadets blew us away with how ready and eager they were to serve their country. And who can overlook the guts and nerve of our Navy SEALs as they took down Osama bin Laden? Beyond all these are the hundreds of thousands of patriots since America's founding like Todd Weaver, who literally have given up their very lives for their country and our freedom.
Each Memorial Day, we honor and commemorate all of our fallen warriors. The day holds a special meaning for all of us, and for the families of the fallen, it provides a profoundly proud yet painful remembrance.
My father fought and was wounded in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge. I served in the U.S. Air Force in Korea. I am also an honorary Marine. My brother Aaron served in the U.S. Army in Korea. And our brother, Wieland, served in the U.S. Army, as well, in Vietnam, where he paid the ultimate price on June 3, 1970. (His name is etched among the 58,000 fallen service members on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.) Wieland was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device (first oak leaf cluster) for his heroism Aug. 27, 1970.
The official correspondence about the award from Adjutant General Thomas E. Minix details Wieland's heroism in this way: "For heroism in ground combat against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam on 3 June 1970. Private Norris distinguished himself while serving as assistant machine gunner in Company A, 2d Battalion (Airmobile), 506th Infantry, during combat operations near Fire Support Base Ripcord, Republic of Vietnam. When his platoon made contact with an enemy reconnaissance team, Private Norris volunteered to walk in the lead position to inspect the area after the enemy was engaged by aerial rocket artillery. Approaching the top of a hill, he noticed two hostile soldiers waiting in ambush. Private Norris immediately shouted a warning to his fellow soldiers, drawing the hostile fire to himself, mortally wounding him. His alertness prevented the insurgents from inflicting numerous casualties on his platoon. Private Norris' personal bravery and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army."
On the day Wieland sacrificed his own life, I lost my best friend and brother, and the hearts of my mother and my other brother, Aaron, and my own were torn in two. That day, we unwillingly joined the ranks of those families of fallen warriors.
It has been 41 years since my brother left for his heavenly home, and we miss him and are as proud of him today as we were back then. This Memorial Day week (which concludes with the anniversary of his death), we again honor and commemorate his sacrifice and courage, along with all our other valiant patriots.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Todd W. Weaver and my brother Pvt. Wieland Clyde Norris are just two stellar examples of hundreds of thousands of fallen warriors who are worthy of our thanks and honor. They all serve not only as our heroes but also as reminders that our liberties and republic are worth fighting for.
About such patriots, Gen. George S. Patton was right: "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived."