“Mom … remember that my leaving was in the service of something that we loved, and that most people can’t comprehend its scope … our sacred honor.”
As we honor Memorial Day, I am compelled to remember the words of Lt. Mark Dooley to his mother in a letter to be opened only after his death. His sentiments symbolize the true meaning of honor—attained by so many Americans—who have given their lives for our nation.
Arlington National Cemetery Interment Ceremony
On July 13, 2007, I was privileged to attend the full military interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery of Army 1st Lt. Mark H. Dooley, 27—killed in Iraq on Sept. 19, 2005. Lt. Dooley’s assignment was in the 2nd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), 42nd Infantry Division, Vermont Army National Guard.
I was invited to this solemn event by his parents, Marion and Peter Dooley. I met Marion Dooley at a school violence prevention presentation for the Wallkill School District in New York on Nov. 22, 2006. Because I honor American military personnel at each of my presentations, Marion shared with me the story of her son.
Although there are many vignettes that can be used to capture the event, I will never forget the expressive faces of those who honored Mark and the “clip-clop” of horse hooves in soothing cadence as they transported the caisson that carried Mark’s remains. It was the perfect orchestration of nature and emotions during the one-mile procession to Mark’s final resting place—as though even the horses sympathized with the gravity of the interment.
After the interment ceremony, I had the opportunity to speak with Dooley’s parents about his life.
Peter Dooley, Mark’s Father
Peter Dooley served in the U.S. Air Force. He said, “My son Mark was dedicated to the service of his country and to giving the Iraqi people the opportunity to experience the freedom and liberty which we are so privileged to have.
“Mark was an example of the values of our society which need to be resurfaced. Character, honor, truthfulness, family, virtue, service, discipline, and valor were very real to him.”
Marion Dooley, Mark’s Mother
Undoubtedly, the most important reflections shared about Mark come from the heart of his mother:
“Mark had a unique sense of dedication, care, and responsibility toward his family, friends, his military companions, and his country. I remember the sensitivity in which he gave me a sealed envelope prior to his deployment to Iraq and his request that I promise not to open it unless he did not return. As promised, this document was only to be opened after his death. I am confident that sharing it will allow everyone to have the insight into the remarkable person who was my son.”
A Son’s Letter
Below are excerpts from a letter from Lt. Mark H. Dooley, to be opened only if he did not return from deployment:
“Mom, I have no delusions that reading or even hearing this letter read can fill my absence. Please forgive me for not being able to be there; but also remember that my leaving was in the service of something that we loved, and that most people can’t comprehend its scope … our sacred honor …
“Time will ease pain, and the best way to pay respect is to value why a sacrifice was made. Remember time is a gift, use it to enjoy life … continue to live fulfilling happy lives with God’s hands holding you safely. I will see you all in God’s perfect time …”
With Loving Affection and Endearment,
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com