Nicolle Laffin honors sacrifices of all fallen soldiers in Memorial Day address

When Nicolle Laffin came home from service, often people were surprised that she was a U.S Army Veteran.

Laffin, the speaker for Memorial Day services held in Byron, Cowley and Lovell Monday, said she found herself in a department store, and upon admitting to the clerk that she had been absent from home for a while, another customer began questioning her. 

Nicolle Laffin speaks about the meaning of Memorial Day and reflects on her time in the military during one of three Memorial Day ceremonies Monday.
Ryan Fitzmaurice photo

“He said, ‘you’ve been gone for a while, huh? Where have you been? Prison?’ I said,  ‘No. I’ve been in the Military.’ He responded ‘You don’t look like you were in the Military.’ But I look like I’ve been in prison?”

Soldiers don’t often look like you imagine them to. Those who serve aren’t always on the front lines, and those who have defended our freedom have sacrificed in innumerable ways, Laffin told the crowds assembled during the services.

As spring begins its steady march toward summer, Laffin said Memorial Day begins her favorite season of the year. Memorial Day is followed by Flag Day and finally the fourth of July.

“This time of the year encompasses everything that I hold most dear.  The secured freedom of faith, the establishment of country, the protection of family, a future with possibilities for my children and remembering the precious sacrifice that all of these things cost,” Laffin said “And, of course, John Wayne movies.”

John Wayne played the ideal soldier, Laffin said, brave, strong and decisive, not to mention dashing in uniform. But very few soldiers look like John Wayne. Laffin said while she worked in combat, she knew she was successful because of the several different soldiers working behind the scenes to support her.

“Once I had a chance to stop and reflect, I realized that one of the reasons why we were able to be so effective was because of the support personnel.  None of us had to worry about food and water, none of us had to worry about ammunition, none of us had to worry about whether our families were getting our paychecks or medical care while we were gone.  We received words of encouragement through the mail which was faithfully delivered,” Laffin said.   “For every one of us, there must have been ten other people working faithfully, diligently and quietly to support the mission.”

It takes all types of sacrifices to keep our freedom intact, Laffin said. 

“And just like the many different jobs, personalities and experiences that we lived, there were that many different ways that soldiers died,” Laffin said.  “We have colleagues whose missions were so extraordinary that when we turn on the History channel, we see their faces staring back at us.  There were those in our units whose deaths were so pedestrian that it could have been something that we read about in the local paper.  And there were friends who, although they came back home, they just couldn’t find their way back home.”

The American Legion Color Guard progresses through the Byron Cemetery to begin the Memorial Day ceremony. From the front are Butch Fink, Allen Sessions, Frank Wilkerson, Robert Bond, Scott Fink, Jack Nicholls, Bruce Dempster, Leroy Collins and Jim Woody.
Ryan Fitzmaurice photo

Those who made the ultimate sacrifice did it for us, Laffin said, and it’s up for us to honor them. 

“Honor our fallen, not just today, but every day.  Not with grand heroic gestures, but with the everyday, ordinary actions that keep us moving forward.  Remember that our forefathers didn’t intended for us to be them but to continually build a more perfect union,” Laffin said.   “In a time, when anger and division is popular, remember to work toward unity and an indivisible nation.  In a time, when so many are concerned about being owed a self-only, self-first version of freedom, remember that liberty for a diverse nation will require self-control and basic civility towards others.”

Sgt. Laffin served from February 1998 through October 2003, working as a Voice Intercept Operator – Arabic and assigned to the 103rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 3rd InfantryDivision. Her stateside assignments were the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, Calif., and Fort Stewart, Ga. She served overseas in Kuwait, Bosnia and Iraq, and her combat deployment was in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Laffin has been honored with the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, NATO Medal, NATO Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medal.

Many others also served during Monday’s three Memorial Day services. 

The color guard, commanded by Allen Sessions, consisted of Frank Wilkerson, Butch Fink, Scott Fink, Bruce Dempster, Robert Bond and Jack Nicholls with Jim Woody, Tom Dillon and Leroy Collins on the rifle line.

Lovell Elementary School fifth-grade students, directed by music teacher Chauna Bischoff, sang three patriotic numbers during each ceremony. 

Each ceremony began with a ceremonial march to a cadence provided by drummer Meg Anderson. Richard Fink was the master of ceremonies for each ceremony, while Jim Thomas led prayer as the chaplain. Bruce Wolsey laid flowers at each site. 

David Peck and CJ Lindsay played “Taps.”

By Ryan Fitzmaurice