Memorial Day 2019: Feeling His Presence

Just in time for Memorial Day, the wife and son of a fallen U.S. Marine received a once in a lifetime gift.

By Tom Sileo Published on May 24, 2019

“For a family like ours, every day is Memorial Day,” Gold Star wife Crissie Carpenter wrote to The Stream on May 23.

All families of the fallen have suffered. The circumstances of Crissie’s tragic loss are among the most difficult I’ve encountered in a decade of writing about our military community’s post-9/11 sacrifices.

In 2011, Crissie was eight months pregnant when her husband, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter, was shot by an enemy sniper in Afghanistan on Valentine’s Day. Unable to fly to the military hospital in Germany during her pregnancy’s third trimester, Crissie was forced to say goodbye to her husband by phone.

“I spoke to him three different times — they put the phone up to his ear for me,” Crissie told me less than a month after her husband’s passing.

I attended Lance Cpl. Carpenter’s funeral in Tennessee on February 28, 2011. Eight years later, I am still haunted by the sights and sounds of that tragic day. If a bystander was so profoundly affected, one can only imagine the pain Crissie has endured.

“Prayer and God are the main things getting me through this,” she said at the time.

Crissie’s first prayer was answered when the couple’s first and only child, Landon, was born the month after his father made the ultimate sacrifice.

Landon Carpenter, son of fallen U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter, in 2011.

Landon Carpenter, son of fallen U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter, in 2011.

Today, Landon is a smart, healthy eight-year-old boy who’s been wonderfully raised by his mom under the most trying of circumstances. While there’s nothing more important than their love, faith and the enduring memory of Landon’s dad, something was still missing.

“Owning a home of my own has always been a dream of mine since I can remember,” Crissie told me. “Especially as Landon has grown older, I have put pressure on myself about how much I would love to be able to give him a place we can call home that would truly be ‘ours.’ Sadly, although this idea sounded wonderful, I never really felt financially secure enough to make the bold move of home ownership.”

Seemingly out of nowhere, the Gold Star wife’s second prayer was answered more than eight years after the first. Thanks to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named for a heroic New York City firefighter killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Crissie and Landon learned they would be receiving a new, mortgage-free house in Dickson, Tennessee.

“I honestly was in disbelief that they wanted to give us a home of our very own,” Crissie wrote. “Receiving this home has been such an emotional journey for me. To say that I am forever grateful is an understatement.”

“We sought the Carpenter family out after thorough research, and reached out to Crissie,” Andrew McClure, Tunnel to Towers’ national community engagement coordinator, told The Stream. “The family clearly met the requirements.

“It is truly one of the greatest feelings one can have,” McClure added. “To be able to provide an American family with a piece of the American dream, while removing a tremendous financial burden, well, it does the heart real good.”

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter sends a loving message to his wife and unborn son shortly before being killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011.

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter sends a loving message to his wife and unborn son shortly before being killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011.

One of the things I remember most about Lance Cpl. Carpenter’s memorial service was the song played before its conclusion: Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” There was total silence among the hundreds paying respects inside the funeral home as the song’s gentle notes played.

Eight years after a deployed Marine reaffirmed his love for his wife and unborn son in the touching photo displayed above, Crissie and Landon’s angel reappeared inside a place they could finally call home.

“On top of all the feelings of excitement and comfort, I completely feel Andy’s presence in this process, which makes this home even more special and meaningful,” she wrote.

While enjoying their new house this weekend with family and friends, the meaning of Memorial Day will never be lost on Crissie or Landon Carpenter, who will be guests of honor when Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issues an official proclamation saluting fallen U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter.

“My hope for this day is that others, who do not have to live this life every day, will take a few moments and really think about those who fought in the past as well as those who died in the act of selfless service to our wonderful country,” Crissie eloquently wrote. “They fought so we wouldn’t have to.”


Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of 8 Seconds of CourageBrothers Forever and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg

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