Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jennifer Turcotte Wedding... Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. L'Herault!!!

On Saturday February 20, 2010, Jennifer Turcotte married Adam L'Herault. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t catch my, or your, attention except for the very special circumstances of this wedding.

Jen lost her first husband, SGT Nicholas Turcotte, on Dec 4, 2006, in Iraq. His mission was the first one I was the Ride Captain for so the family has maintained a very special place in my heart and we have maintained close ties.

Jen still, to this day, loves Nick with all her heart. She has celebrated his life in many different ways including becoming a TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) mentor and working with other families who are in the grief process after losing a hero while serving our country. Her family last year hosted our state gathering of Gold Star families. Jen works with other women in same situation and has made friends across the country.

As time has gone by Jen told me that she had dated but the circumstances never went past a few dates. Last year I started seeing pictures of Adam in internet shared albums so I knew she had a special guy in her life. I was genuinely happy for her and was delighted to meet Adam and begin to get to know him. I would admit I held back a bit with Adam. Knowing how much Jen still loves Nick I was expecting at some point a parting of their ways based on Adam needing to accept that.

So last fall I found out that a February wedding was being planned and I started joking with Jen about my invitation and was tickled to see it actually come in the mail.

Watching her happiness via Facebook was fun and I could follow wedding plans. I saw Adam and Jen at Wreaths Across America where Jen always leaves a big kiss with lipstick on Nick’s headstone at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

So wedding day approached and I am wondering just how the day was going to play out with Nick’s memory and if it was going to be a cloud or simply ignored.

Entering the Semple Mansion where the wedding was to be held I went up to greet the family in the front. On a table with candles burning were pictures of Jen and Nick together, happy, and in love. The picture on the front of the table was a picture of Jen and Adam with the same look of love. That was the first sign that this day was going to be special.

Taking my seat I read the program. On the back of it was a letter from Jen and Adam thanking everyone for being there and part of their lives.

Underneath that was a beautiful letter from Jen to Nick. I started crying reading it because it outlined a woman’s love for her fallen hero, her new husband, and letting both know that she will love them forever.

“In Loving Memory of Nicholas Turcotte”

To my dear love Nick,

I can remember the first day we met, the first time we kissed. I remember our senior prom and graduating from high school with you. I remember when you proposed. I will never forget the day I married you! We have made so many wonderful memories together over the years. I will never let them go. Nick you are my first love, my amazing hero, and I will love you forever and carry your memory with me always.

Today I know you are watching over me. I know you have looked after me over the last few years. I know this is the man you would have wanted me to marry, and I know he is not trying to replace your love but continue where you left off and give me the same love you had for me.

Today as I marry Adam, I will take you with me. I will take you with me when I have our first child, my first grandchild, and as I grow old. I will take you with me always! Your memory is forever in my heart and I will share your story and life with everyone I meet. Not a day will go by that I will not take you, your love, or your memory with me.

I hope I have made you proud of the way I’ve faced the future and carried on without you until we meet again. Goodnight my love.

Forever yours, Jennifer.

There was a special mention from the minster that Jen’s first husband lost his life serving our country and that there would be a candle lighting ceremony with Jen and Adam to honor Nick’s memory. As the day went on there were special items of Nick’s there and the picture montages would occasionally flash pictured of Jen and Nick together.

Jen’s sister Katie who served as Maid of Honor gave a moving tribute to Nick and how much he was loved and missed to this day.

“Hi I’m Katie Jen's sister

Of course today is all about love and celebrating the great love that these two people share and who loves love more than Jen?

Jen has had passion for loving ever since she was little, she once had a cat that she loved so much that she would hold it in her arms and squeeze it until it clawed its way out of her smothering hug and since then we all knew that Jen had more love in her heart than the average little girl

13 years later Jen met a wonderful man that she fell deeply in love with they were so lovey dovey that I could barely stand it! She loved him so much that she knew that she had to let him follow his dream, his calling and she loved him so much that when her man turned into a hero she knew she had to let him go.

Well that was easier said, or rather tattooed, than done.

The tough times were tough and happy times a bit tougher but with all the heartache Jen never turned her back on love even though it seemed like love turned it’s back on her.
She kept on smiling through the pain and bravely moving forward.

One and a half years later Jen found Adam, the piece she didn’t even know she was missing. Adam was her saving grace. Her strong shoulder to cry on, her happiness on a bad day. He wasn’t there to help Jen forget her hero or replace the man she loved but to help her hold on to the memories and join in love.

It takes a strong woman to move forward and love again and an even stronger man to love a woman whose heart he has to share.

And so Jen knew that with Nick in her heart , Adam by her side, and her family behind her she was home.

You may think that this story ends with a happily ever after but this story is far from over

And so I would like to make a toast to Jen and Adam and their never ending story.”

What Jen reinforced to me was that Adam insisted on integrating Nick to the wedding. His heart, and trust in Jen, was deep enough to be secure in her love for him. Jen said she called and apologized to Adam after their first date because all she did was talk about Nick. He told her to let it out because it was part of who she is.

I asked if they were Ok with me writing about my amazing experiences and they not only approved it but encouraged it. They wanted the message to get out that this was possible in a healthy way. I was honored to be there as a friend and witness this marriage.

This relationship and wedding are a great example of what is possible when someone, after tragedy strikes, moves forward. I intentionally don’t use the words “moving on” because that in many ways implies forgetting. Moving forward allows Jen to bring her love of Nick with her, never forget him, and still love Adam with her whole heart. Someone less secure than Adam might ask her to push that backwards and leave Nick's memory behind.

One other reflection I had is that we tend to put the fallen hero and their families on pedestals that reach the sky. What I don’t know if I do well is recognize that they may not want to stay on the pedestal or want to change it over time. In Jen’s case she brought Adam up to the pedestal and made it larger to also hold his love for her. I have to remind myself that we can not constrain or typecast the hero’s family based on what we think is how they should act or what we think is appropriate.

It was a beautiful day spent with two people who are very much in love. Their inner strength is 10x what I thought it was and I am proud to be their friends. Jennifer had every reason in the world to shut her heart down and she didn’t. She and Adam will have a wonderful life!

Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. L'Herault!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Purple Heart Award Program

We are so pleased to have been able to make the presentations we have over the last two months to the warriors who were wounded and still with us.

Our budget for this program has been used so we are standing down from this program now. If you know of a military member who awarded a Purple Heart in OEF/OIF please make sure they have applied to the MMAF for their additional grant for being awarded a Purple Heart.

The MMAF makes a $2,000 grant for being awarded a Purple Heart and if there is a permanent disability they may grant more.

In the future the MN Patriot Guard will support the MMAF with additional donations to help them continue their program of supporting our brave heroes.