Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Derek.....

When I think of Derek, I think of a quote from Julius Caesar. "Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once." Derek McConnell was a valiant Hero. He volunteered to serve our country. He agreed to protect us all and defend our constitution. Derek, unlike so many, chose to run right into the fire rather than run away. Derek was not afraid to fight. I am beyond honored that I was able to witness his fight so closely. I still cannot believe his fight has ended.

Derek entered our lives the day he was injured. Facebook linked our family to his. Thanks to facebook friends, I was able to help Siobhan and then Krystina navigate this mess of a system that we have to go through. I watched as they stood by, as I had done just months before, waiting for answers from doctors and surgeons. I tried to help them in anyway I could. I sat with them in waiting rooms. I brought them food. I kidnapped them to run out for lunch. Together we cried and screamed about having to go through this Hell.

I remember the day Siobhan was fired from her job. I remember the first time I finally met Derek. I remember the day he and Krystina got engaged. I remember tater tot casserole-date night. I feel we are truly blessed to have so many awesome memories with Derek and his family.

Derek made me cry when he asked if we would come watch him stand up for the first time. I literally choked up for a second. He said, "You have to be there. You're like family." And sure enough I teared up when he stood up for the first time, just like I did with Chaz.

Derek, Krystina, Chaz and I have sat around and discussed futures together. Chaz and I were reminiscing about the time when Derek asked us a gazillion questions about us. "How did you meet? How long before you were married? How did you know it was right?" Derek's questions kept coming and we happily answered them all. Derek is like a curious little brother to us and we were eager to help him any way we could. 

Our families go through so much on the road to the new normal. We bond through our tragedies. The last conversation I had with Derek will be the one that always sticks with me. He asked me if I ever thought all this sacrifice was worth it? And he confided in me that he feared a lifetime of health problems for Krystina, I and the other families to deal with it. We talked about how everyone handles this all differently. We talked about how America chooses to enjoy their ignorance. They choose to go to the mall rather than thinking about how to help those who sacrifice for them. I remember telling Derek that I had to chose to believe this is all worth it. He said that he agreed but that sometimes this fight really sucks. We laughed together because his statement was so true. I told Derek that I choose to believe God has a plan for us all. Today I still cannot understand how God could call him home so soon.

Goodbye Derek. Your fight is over. You fought so very hard for so long to stay with us. You demonstrated to us what a fighter truly is. You showed us the meaning of sacrifice. You defined what it means to be a Hero. Our family has been blessed to have had you in our life. You might be gone from our sight, but you will never be gone from our hearts. We still see your smile. We still hear your laughter. And we know you are now walking again in Heaven watching over all of us. You fulfilled the 10th Mountain mission. You completed your "Climb to Glory". We will always remember that it was "No Luck, Only Sacrifice." Rest easy soldier, your battle is done.


  1. Jessica,
    Such beautiful words from the heart. Bless you & your family for sharing your time with Derek. I wish I would of had the honor of knowing him, Krystina, and Siobhan personally, but through Team Derek's page I grew to love them all and I will miss Derek immensely.
    Thank you,

  2. beautiful thank you for writing

  3. At the time I was so happy that Derek and his family had you to help them. It is a blessing that his suffering is over, but oh how much pain those who are left behind are going through.
    Always lifting up prayer!
    Psalms 40:5, 11, 13 Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. (11) Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me. (13) Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me.
    My email address

  4. I followed Derek's story too! I never met him, Siobhan, or Krystina, but I prayed for them. Followed on FB and caring bridge. I lost my disabled vet husband 2 years ago. Praying for Derek and for Chaz and other disabled vets gave me purpose. I was a caregiver for my husband of 20 years. He endured over 20 surgeries, 11 spine. There were always complications, each time something different. There were the hidden wounds of war....the worst wounds. Medicines to keep track of, doctors appointments filled our days, weeks and years. Now that my husband is gone, the kids and I are left with the shoulda, woulda, couldas.... If only we would have had not left him alone....had him on an alarm system while he was sleeping...would have known that his oxygen levels were dropping too low. I want so badly to warn/help the caregivers who are just beginning this journey. What is our life now that he is gone? No more hospitals, no more Fisher House, No more Doctor appointments. No more dad./husband. Our life was a roller coaster ride, but it was a good life. Jessica, you have a strong voice and a good heart for our vets. Thank you so much for all that you do. May God continue to bless you and your family and may God continue to watch over our troops and bring them home soon. This new generation of warriors will need our backing for the rest of their lives. Spread the word people, we cannot count on the VA to take care of our wounded. We need to come together and support them and their families for the many years to come.

    1. so very sorry for your loss and sacrifice. prayers for you for strength!!!

  5. Jessica, you expressed your heart so beautifully......and it is so important for others to have a glimpse inside the hearts of those who have walked in your shoes. For those of us who have not, we have only you and those who choose to share what is in their hearts for us to even attempt to understand. I met Derek and Krystina but a couple of times and felt their love for each other. I, too, believe God in all His wisdom, had a reason to bring Derek home...to early for those left behind, but the right time for God and for Derek. I know he will be missed. To read and hear the words of friends is a testament to who Derek was as a man, a soldier and a friend. Thank God for men like Derek. Rest in peace, soldier. You touches so many hearts and souls and you will live in them forever.

  6. Know that I'm here praying!
    Psalms 40:16-17 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified. But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.
    My email address