In memorializing those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, I forever hold onto this story of CSM Ioakimo Falaniko and the loss of his son Pv2 Jonathan I. Falaniko. The story illustrated to me how to handle my son’s being downrange and in the fight. Not to single any veteran(s) out as being any more special and deserving of honor than anyone else on this occasion, but every year at this time I think back to a time and a fear of loss that has never left me.
At the onset of the GWOT, the US went into Iraq in early 2003. Justin enlisted in the Army in October 2003. As an Army retiree of 20 years’ service I was so proud of him for his decision and commitment to serve, and yet at the same time as a soldier who was in the 20 years peactime Army I was silently horrified that he chose to do so at a time when the search for Bin Laden and now the surge into Baghdad were a nighmarish reality just getting underway. What if he was deployed into harm’s way and we lost him to war? How would I handle this? Would my pride for him wearing the Army uniform turn into hate toward the Army for having taken him? Would such a scenario make me hate or feel shame for having been his reference point for becoming a solder as an option in life? Would I be able to forgive myself for having always preached the military as a way to earn one’s right to be an American ever since he was a child?
I do not know and have never met these soldiers. PV2 Jonathan I. Falaniko, A Company, 70th Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Division, Fort Riley, KS. CSM Ioakimo Falaniko, his father, was downrange nearby when Jonathan lost his life due to an IED. CSM Falaniko had just spent time with his son two days before. I read this story soon after this tragic loss occurred and, considering my own fears of possibilities with my boy almost completing basic training, told myself that CSM was living out my wildest fears. How, how on Earth will he cope? How will this change his whole outlook on a profession he had embraced for 26 years but has now changed his family forever? Media reporters asked him that very question of how he was coping. His summarized answer (probably not verbatim but as filtered by the media for brevity).
“I understand my loss. I am a soldier. I will continue to be a soldier.”
Fa’afetai, Mahalo, and Si Yuos Maase CSM Falaniko, for clarifying the purpose and resolve of soldiers even in the face of the closest and most heartfelt of tragedies. This Memorial Day is a solemn one for your family.