I hope this does you justice <3
Good afternoon, my name is Chrissy Young and I am a 2008 graduate of Penns Manor. Today I’m here to talk to you about someone very close to my heart. How many times have you read a story in the paper or saw a clip on the news involving an American military member who had been killed while serving his or her country? If you are anything like most other people, your immediate reaction was probably, "Oh my gosh, that is so horrible," or "how sad" or "I'm glad my family doesn't have to deal with anything like that." While you may have the utmost respect and admiration for the members of our military, it is difficult for most of you to fully understand the danger they place themselves in each and every day to protect the lives we all live here in the United States of America.
Anyone with a heart feels a certain degree of sadness when they hear about a service member losing their life in combat. However, until it happens to someone close you, there is no way anyone can possibly understand how it affects so many lives. I am here today to try to convey to all of you what type of a person it takes to put his or her life on hold and risk sacrificing their own life for millions of people -- people like you and me -- that they have never even met. It takes a person of character, a person who knows what they have, is thankful for what they have, and is willing to give whatever it takes to preserve those freedoms for all of us. It takes a person with more courage than most people can even imagine. That is why I am here to tell you about Lance Corporal Joshua T. Twigg.
For the past 5 years of my life, I have been lucky enough to know Josh Twigg, a 2007 Penns Manor graduate, who was also my best friend and boyfriend. I met Josh those 5 years ago at this very high school. It was easy to see that we were both very different. Josh was the funny outgoing guy who was usually doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing and I was the straight A student who was quiet and well behaved. Throughout our high school years, Josh was known by many of his classmates and teachers as the fun, easygoing guy. He played football for six years and he enjoyed every second of his time here at Penns Manor. No matter what, he always had you laughing and put an instant smile on your face. It wasn’t unheard of to see him in the hallway making jokes and usually misbehaving along the way. We spent day after day in the lunchroom while his table repeatedly shot water bottle caps toward other tables, and one cap hit me right in the forehead during a lunch period.
Many times I walked past the office doors to see Josh sitting there waiting to visit the principal. At other times I would walk past Mr. D. Fulton’s history classroom to hear him take a deep breath and say “Mr. Twigg”. I often found myself in Mr. R Fulton’s math class to hear him say to Josh’s class “What are you guys doing you’re going to be on the outside looking in.” Regardless of doing things he probably shouldn’t have been- everyone was always laughing with him, teachers included.
As a student here at Penns Manor, I attended Veterans Day assemblies, just like you. I sat in this same auditorium, hearing guest speakers every single Veterans day. Three years ago I was a senior and I stood on this same stage taking part in the Veterans Day assembly, but I never really understood the true meaning of this day. I first began to fully understand Veterans Day three years ago. Josh had recently graduated boot camp and was in Infantry school in North Carolina. As I sat on this stage listening to reverend McCulley speak about his son who gave his life in Iraq, my eyes filled with tears. Was this really happening to people? As I cried to one of my friends shortly after the end of the ceremony, I remember thinking, “that won’t happen me.” Here I am three short years later- and it is me. I’m here to tell to you about my life with the military, the sacrifices of our military members, and what we can do to recognize and support them in the future; and I want to start by telling you our story.
As high school sweethearts starting into adult life we passed through a lot, but we were a team taking it all together. Josh was a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps assigned to the 2nd Battalion 9th Marine Regiment out of Camp LeJeune North Carolina. I stayed at home going to school at IUP while he lived 10 hours away doing his job as a Marine. My life started on this crazy roller coaster on July 1 2007, the day Josh left for boot camp. I remember dreading that day for months and it was the longest day ever. As I stood in his kitchen around 5pm that day with tears in my eyes I thought, “4 years that’s all, and we can get through this.”
Over the past 3 years we had many tearful “see you laters,” we survived a deployment to Iraq, countless field ops, living off of phone calls when we had the chance, 96 hour visits, and everything else accompanying the Marine lifestyle. It isn’t just about the deployments because the whole lifestyle is hard. For those of you who don’t know you can’t make any plans that are involving the Marine Corps. I can’t tell you the countless times our plans were ruined when Josh would get stuck at work late or they decided it was necessary for him to have duty the weekend he was set to come home. Before this last deployment I had officially decided the Marine Corps didn’t want to share Josh with me.
Josh deployed for the second time to Afghanistan on July 17 of this year and was set to return sometime in February 2011. It is natural for anyone to be scared of deployments, but I was doing okay. He was a good Marine and this was our last deployment, so the Marine Corps was going to be just the first chapter in our lives. However, deployments are very hard on all parties involved. Even though it is the service member that is deployed, you will often hear that it is always harder on the silent ranks of the Marine Corps, the spouses they leave behind. We live in a world of the unknown.
I spent several hours gripping my phone waiting on a call that “just might come,” sitting in front my computer screen hoping his name would pop up, writing countless letters and emails, sending care packages, and becoming the best of friends with girls I didn’t even know; but we had the common bond of our guys being on this deployment together. We would be up until the wee hours of the morning talking about what we’re going to do after this deployment is over which waiting for those calls and instant messages. At 5 am on September 1st my phone rang and as I rolled over to pick up my phone I saw “Josh Afghanistan” on my caller id. My Nana would tell you about the mornings in our household and that I am a bear when I get woken up early. However, this was one of Josh’s favorite pastimes to hear my grumpy self on the other end of the line because he woke me up. He and his friends often found it funny to wake me up and tell me stories because it usually takes me about 10 minutes to catch up with what’s going on. As much as I hate getting up early, I never objected to phone calls coming from the sand box. When I was finally awake, he had me laughing and we talked as we usually did. He had a few more things to do that day so he told me he had to go, but he would call back as soon as he could. Around 6 am, I gave my normal be careful speech and we exchanged our “I love you’s,” it was going to be a good day.
On the morning of September 2nd, just before 8 am, my phone rang again. This time I quickly realized it wasn’t Josh, it was his Dad and I knew something was wrong. I got the worst phone call one could ever imagine that morning. I answered the phone only to hear him on the other end say, “Chrissy, Josh was killed this morning.” My heart sank. As I sat up in my bed I kept thinking No, no this is not happening to me right now, he promised he would be home. It can’t be him there has to be a mistake. This is his last deployment there is no way it could happen now. As I hung up the phone I ran down the stairs screaming for my Nana. I got to the bottom and in that instant it hit my like a train. I fell to the floor and burst into tears. This was a military spouse’s worst nightmare and I was about to start living it.
I know most of you have read the Revolutionary war novel, “My Brother Sam is Dead,” in Mrs. Zuchelli’s class or watched the history videos in Mr. Zayachak’s class; but it is difficult to fully understand the sacrifices our service men and women make. From the beginning of this country, we have been patriotic and supportive of our troops. On this Veterans Day, we should ask ourselves, has our patriotism drifted away? Do we just expect others to step forward and serve while the rest of us live comfortably at home? Are we doing all that we can to support them? I was guilty of not doing everything I could, but I have changed my ways and I want to encourage you to do the same. I had to learn the hard way. At 20 years old I have been deemed a “war widow” and I find myself picking up the pieces of what could have been.
The Marines serving in Afghanistan are currently living without all of the comforts we take for granted such as cooked meals, electricity, running water, and a hundred other things we would never want to live without. Now it our chance to step up and support the friends he left behind in Afghanistan. Penns Manor is currently collecting items for care packages to be sent to Josh’s unit. A collection barrel is currently in the lobby and I encourage each of you to contribute to this cause. I can assure you a care package from home means more to these men than you will ever know. Today is your chance to start making a difference. This can easily be accomplished by making a donation or even by simply saying “thank you” to a military member or veteran for serving our great nation.
Josh was so proud to be a Marine and serve his country. One thing about Josh was he held me, his family, and his friends close to his heart. He would have done anything in the world for us; but his love for us did not stop him from stepping up and serving his country. Josh was the other half of our team and the most amazing person I know. I can only hope to be half of the person he was in his lifetime. It breaks my heart that I have to go on in this life without him by my side and to start over when all of our plans together are no longer possible. One thing is for sure, he lived every second of his life to the fullest and for that he will always be remembered. Josh made an impact on everyone who knew him. His best friend in the Marine Corps, Pvt Jonathan Hart, summed Josh up in a few sentences, “Josh was a great leader and the best of friends. He was a big guy, but I can assure you he had an even bigger heart. He excelled above most as a Marine and people looked up to him.” If one thing came from this it is the pride I feel in my heart and the family of Marines Josh left me with. He made such a long last impression and his love for me was so well known, that guys I barely know have taken a huge role in my life and I have more big brother figures that I ever could have imaged. I too am a part of the Marine Corps family and I am forever thankful that Josh gave me that. A part of him will live on in me forever and he will never be forgotten. It is our chance to step up for Josh and all the brave men and women serving in our military. Thank you.