Local high school senior reflects on military sacrifice

By Kayla Zwicharowski | Polytech High School Senior | Jan. 24, 2012

MAGNOLIA, Del. — A C5 peeks through the clouds above Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., just as two soldiers tread anxiously up a brick sidewalk far away. As the plane makes its descent behind the barbed wire fence, a young wife cries out and falls to her knees as she discovers that the baby she is carrying will never meet his or her father. He has made the ultimate sacrifice so that his unborn child will live freely. For within that peaceful looking plane gently descending from the Delaware sky are rows of flag covered transfer cases. They have arrived at Dover Air Force Base Port Mortuary to be prepared for burial.

The stories of these men and women who laid down their lives for our freedom unfold at Dover. Their remains are treated with the greatest dignity, honor and respect. Their personal effects are cleaned and cared for before being passed on to the military escorts who will take them home.

Is there pride in serving in the military? Is there pride in leaving everyone you love behind forever in order to ensure that they will live freely? There is the ultimate pride. These men and women deserve every ounce of our respect, because they believe in what they are fighting for: every American's freedom and safety.

There are countless, real stories of families who are torn apart by the loss of a loved one, and they happen every day. As Americans, we must remember those who gave their lives for ours.

Everyday, we live our lives because of their sacrifices and those of their families left behind. We must support these families and our military, for we owe them so much. We must honor these fallen soldiers by fulfilling our roles as American citizens, roles of actively participating in our government. We must take a stand on issues we believe in and vote in support of our military.

As the young widow accepts a folded flag at her husband's funeral, a small token for his life, she is haunted by his last words whispered to her before he left, "If I go home through Dover, don't shed a tear for me. My life is over, but I know my family is free." As the tears stream down her face, she looks to the sky where she knows he is smiling down on her. Their child will live knowing that his or her father died a hero.

Back in Dover, the rain is pelting the flight line as the first glimpse of the C5's lights looms through the darkness. The honor guard stands prepared for the next arrival, ready to carry the loved ones who have come home through Dover. A man stands in the mist, ready to prepare these soldiers to return home. He will honor and respect them, hold their personal belongings, care for their remains and pray for their families. That man is my father.

For the past twelve years, my father has worked at the Port Mortuary and has been teaching me what it is to be an American. He teaches me to remember fallen soldiers' sacrifices in everything I do. He shows me by example how to rise up in the face of trials. Every day, he sees the true sights of war and of American's fallen but never fails to be the perfect dad.

He comes home to our family knowing that it is because of those fallen soldiers' sacrifices that he is able to do so. My hope is that every American can learn to live like my father. He never fails to have a smile on his face, lifting up those who are suffering. To me, this shows the ultimate honor and pride towards our military.

(Kayla Zwicharowski is the 17-year-old daughter of William Zwicharowski, port mortuary branch director at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs)