Feb. 27, 2011, will always be a date Army Staff Sergeant Alex Dillmann will never forget. It is not only the day he became paralyzed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast while serving in Afghanistan, it is also when he lost his friend and fellow Soldier Sergeant Kristopher J. Gould.
Every Memorial Day, cities and towns across the country honor the fallen Heroes of our nation with memorials and ceremonies. Many Veterans, like Alex, do not need a holiday to recognize those that made the ultimate sacrifice – the comrades they lost never leave their mind. “Every day is Memorial Day for me, specifically with Kristopher. I think of him every day,” he says.
Alex does not have to go far to reflect and remember his fallen brother daily. When Homes For Our Troops built he and his wife Holly their specially adapted custom home in Tampa, the couple included a plaque for Kristopher at the foot of the flagpole in their front yard. Alex regularly keeps in touch with Kristopher’s family members, who were present at his HFOT Key Ceremony. Every year on Kristopher’s birthday, Alex and Holly celebrate Kristopher’s life with a Little Ceasars Pizza and Pepsi – Kristopher’s favorite meal. They are even sure to include a place setting for Kristopher, complete with a birthday cupcake and candle.
The most significant way they keep Kristopher’s memory alive is giving their son, Maximus, Kristopher as his middle name. “Anytime someone asks what our son’s name is, it allows us to speak of the very special meaning of why we gave him that middle name,” Holly says. “When Max is old enough to fully understand, Alex looks forward to explaining to him how he got his middle name and, most importantly, sharing with Max who Kristopher was, what he was like, and why so many people loved him.”
Alex encourages others to take the time to remember and honor the fallen on Memorial Day. “Do some research on the numerous Soldiers who have gone missing in action or given the ultimate sacrifice, believing in the hope that their life would further contribute to the opportunities that we have in this great country today. Go to www.icasualties.org and share your findings with others,” he says. “Spark the interest in our communities to know about these brave men and women who have given all.”
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