Our beloved Mark Francis was born on St. Patrick's Day, 1993. He passed away on May 7, 2019, in a Denver VA halfway house. As a boy he was full of wonder and with his older brother, Matthew, he appreciated the Gift of life. He was exceptionally wise and curious and Matt and I would defer to him with questions we couldn't find an answer to. Smart brother was one of his few "nick names." Throughout his shortened life, he had an obvious intent to connect with others who are typically dismissed, overlooked and/or excluded, at least to some extent.
At 19 years-old, Mark came home one day with his beloved mentor, the late Jon D. Hoover, a Marine Corps. veteran of the Iraq War, to announce he had just joined the U.S. Army. His high test scores allowed him to sign a contract to become an Army Ranger. Some medical conditions he encountered when he returned to the states to join the 82nd Airborne prevented his attempt to become a Ranger.
Mark never talked about any of his achievements while serving in Germany but, he did tell me two stories that evoked a belly full of laughter from both of us. One story was about his unit jumping on the Russian border and being dragged by his chute for what felt like forever. It was an extremely windy day and his chute line wrapped around his foot preventing him from releasing his chute. Eventually, his chute line got caught on a tree and he was able to get to his knees. He rose to one knee, he recalled, and blew lunch (hopefully, on Russian soil). The other story I remember him telling me, with great love for his mother, that he had demonstrated to his unit and his unit leaders his ability to, not only run 10 miles with a 60-plus lb. backpack through wooded terrain, but to mentally record and later document various objects and other matters of interest, after he arrived first back to base. When asked how he could remember almost every planted object over the 10 mile trek, he attributed to his mother lovingly playing "I spy" with him, at home, in the car, with various books, etc. My squad leaders were somewhat shocked, he told me. He hinted to me that he probably inherited some of his dear mother's deaf genes and exceptional ability to see things "long before you ever see them, dad. Billie and Jordan (our four legged family members) also taught me how to assess and adjust on the run, in the woods. You made me run cross country, so I guess I owe you that," he concluded. True that.
It took me a long time to read Mark's DD214 papers. The loss of Mark is something my mind can't find words to describe. In reading his discharge papers, I came across several achievements noted by his section leader during training missions in Romania, Georgia, and other Eastern European countries, a citation that resulted in Mark receiving "The Army Achievement Medal". Here is an excerpt from that award:
"Exceptionally meritorious service while serving as a team leader and lead sniper. SPC Freeman's exceptional leadership, hard work, and dedication to duty greatly enhanced the overall success of the 1st, Squadron's mission and set the standard for others to emulate.His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, 1st. Squadron Airborne, 91st. Cavalry Regiment, and The United States Army." Mark served in Germany from 2014-2016.
We love you Mark Francis and you will always be "my precious one". We are very proud of you! We/I will see you at the Front Gates!
Tower 32 is dedicated to Mark and his service by his father Brian and his mother Connie.
June 12, 1982 - September 11, 2021
Adam grew up in Leroy, Ohio. A place that remained very special to him for all of his life. After graduating from Riverside High School, Adam enlisted in The United States Navy where he served proudly for four years. He was stationed in Norfolk, VA and was aboard The USS Enterprise where he worked as a Cryptologic Technician. He was honorably discharged in 2004.
● Navy Unit Commendation
● Meritorious Unit Commendation
● Flag Letter Commendation
● Good Conduct Medal
● National Defense Service Medal
● Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
● Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (2)
Adam attended Lakeland Community College, Kent State University and Hiram College where he was working toward his degree in Neuroscience and Neuropharmacology. He married his high school sweetheart, Sarah Newman, in 2008. Adam and Sarah had their first daughter, Elizabeth “Lizzie” in 2010 and their second daughter, Rosalind “Rosie” in 2020. Adam adored his wife and daughters. They were the joy of his life and he felt it a great honor to be their husband and dad.
He loved hiking, camping, going for walks, bike riding, swinging in his Gram’s backyard, and sitting around the bonfire with his family and friends. He loved playing video games, listening to music and spending time with his wife and daughters. Adam was very intelligent, enjoyed reading, science and learning.
Like too many of our service men and women, Adam lived with PTSD, depression and anxiety. He worked very hard to overcome these struggles and he did his very best to make his way in the world. He believed in social justice and in the notion that “if you aren’t outraged, then you aren’t paying attention.” Adam was a thoroughly good and decent human being and was so without the expectation of being recognized or rewarded.
“I wish I could tell Adam how proud Lizzie was on the way home from his service. How she was smiling through her tears while holding the flag and Presidential letter that were presented to us. Or how Rosie held onto the prayer card with his picture on it the entire day, saying ‘Dada’ and smiling at his face.
I wish I could tell him how honored I am to have been his wife and how grateful I am to him for being the father of our beautiful girls. I wish he knew how deeply loved he was and how great the grief is without him now.
I love you so much, Adam Daniel. Thank you for believing in me, even when I didn’t know how to believe in myself. For being my partner, my advocate, my cherished one and my very best friend. You will forever be my favorite.’ “Sarah (“Burra”)
Tower 31 is dedicated to Adam's memory and service by his wife Sarah.
Mathew served in the Army as an SP5, from 1961 - 1964 and was assigned to USA Nuclear Defense Lab in Nevada. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal for his service. Matt was a talented baseball player, and played on the Army's baseball team. He is proud to say that he played with Mud Cat Grand.
Tower 29 is dedicated to Mathew and his service by his wife Claire Pothier.
Tower 30 is dedicated by Claire Pothier to all of my family members who served in the Army, Air Force, and Marines.