I am going to start with the first Marine we lost, LCpl Zachary Smith. I've had the pleasure to get to know Zach's widow, Anne, and I feel we have grown very close since she came and visited with me before the 1/6 memorial.
Zach was the first loss, the first Fallen Angel 1/6 faced in this deployment, he was killed by an IED during a foot patrol. But during this post, I am not going to focus on his death, I'm going to focus on his life and his love. So now good friends and loyal readers, I present to you...
04.02.1990 - 01.24.2010
Zach and his family were very close. Their family "thing" was to pound the chest twice when seeing each other (from how I understand, kind of like an I Love You thing, ya know, a "thing"), when Zach was in boot camp, he signed his letters # #. Anne and Kim both told me about when they would read the letters and say Number sign number sign?? Until they realized it was actually Pound Pound - he was keeping up a family tradition even from miles away. When he left for boot camp, Kim created a 93 link paper chain around their home in red, white, and blue, visually counting down the days until he would be home again. Zach has a brother, Nate who is 24 and a sister, Grace who is 11. Kim wanted them to be able to see how close they were getting to Zach's return from boot camp, and she did something similar for his deployment. She counted out marbles for enough days for a 9 month deployment, just in case it went a little long, and her and Grace would put in a marble each night to say good night to Zach and count another day down until their Marine would be home. Like all of us who did not get the homecoming we yearned for, they were ready and waiting for their Marine's return home. The day Zach died, the bottom of the jar had just barely been covered with marbles, he had been in Afghanistan about one month.
Zach's story, just like my Jonny's and so many of the other fallen's, includes a love story as well. Before I begin their story, I just want to tell you a little about Anne from my perspective. Anne is a true good, genuine person. She is one of the nicest, kindest people I have ever met. She is great with my daughter (my daughter REALLY liked her!) and is the kind of person who would do anything for anyone. And she is one tough cookie, although she doesn't realize it at times, she really is.
Anne met Zach in high school. A mutual friend of theirs actually suggested she talk to Zach and she thought he was a goober! Zach was clearly into her though, and persistent, as he would prank call her often. She always knew it was him and would call him on it but he would of course say oh no it's not me. About 10 months before senior prom, he called her and asked her if she'd be his date and as she says, it all started there. Our unit was originally supposed to deploy in August, and Zach began talking about getting married to his love shortly after finding this out. He wanted to plan a nice wedding before they left. Anne says a lot of people thought they should wait, including her. She thought they could plan a much nicer wedding with more time post deployment but he was persistent. At the time, he wouldn't tell her why, but he did tell his mom that if anything happened to him while deployed, he wanted to know that he married the girl he loved. Zach proposed in a unique and special way. Anne described Zach as a big golfer, and he incorporated his love for golf with his love for Anne. He took her to dinner and then took her to the number 4 hole at a local golf course. This golf course is up on a hill and from it you can see the whole city (this is at night, just picture it people, I did - beautiful!), it is also the hole where he scored his first hole in one (yes, 19 years old and it wasn't his ONLY hole in one, he's gotten TWO!). Anne remembers it was so special because of the moment and the place. Like I said, such a beautiful setting.
They were married on July 25, 2009 a little under 5 months before he deployed. They were married for one day shy of 6 months when he was killed. At the time, Anne thought she was pregnant. One month from the day she was notified, she found out she wasn't. Both Kim and Anne remember that as an extremely hard day. Anne wanted to be pregnant not for a distraction, something to do, or just to be a mom, she wished she were pregnant so she would forever have a piece of Zach with her and finding out she was not was almost as hard as the day she found out Zach was gone. Anne and Zach were true high school sweet hearts and very much in love. She describes him as very funny, having the best sense of humor. He made everyone laugh all the time, and although it may have been his goofiness that first made her hesitant, it was probably that same goofiness and sense of humor that drew her in.
Zach was a real person. Zach is a real soul. He has a real love, a real family, a real story. He had a future. He will never, ever be forgotten, and neither will his family.
To Anne, Kim, Chris, Nate, Grace, and all who knew him, I hope I did him justice. I love you all and you will forever remain in my heart due to this unchosen but very strong bond we all have now. To my blog friends, please lift this family up in your prayers as you have mine, they too can use good thoughts sent their way and never forget this fallen angel, LCpl Zachary Smith.