By Amanda Huffman
Contributing Writer

Each Memorial Day, we stop to remember those we lost fighting to protect our freedom, no matter if in combat, a training accident, or from a health issue caused by military service. A great many servicemembers gave the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our country’s freedom, so it’s important for us all to take the time to honor and remember them on Memorial Day.  

Following are the stories of servicemembers lost due to a training accident, death in combat, and death from a disease caused by toxin exposure. We need to remember their bravery and the people they left behind, whose lives are forever changed by the service and loss of someone they loved. 

Before 2013, I truly didn’t understand the significance of Memorial Day. I had never known anyone who had died in service to their country. But in January 2013, my friend Luc’s F-16 went missing off the coast of Italy. For several days, we hoped he would be found alive despite the impossible odds. Luc had an amazing life ahead of him, but sadly his body was found. He left behind his wife and his soon-to-be-born daughter. 

Writing this today I still feel the pain of this loss, but his legacy lives on through a scholarship created in his honor. The Major Lucas Gruenther Foundation provides scholarships each year to well-deserving individuals. Also, each May, there’s an annual Luc’s run in Luc’s hometown of Tuolumne, CA (you can also participate virtually) to raise funds for these scholarships.  

Shannon was killed in 2019 in the Manbij Bombing while deployed in Syria. Shannon helped pave the way for gender inclusion in the Special Operation Forces. She deployed to Iraq multiple times and participated in numerous special operations that led to the capture of hundreds of insurgents. She was also the first woman to pass the Naval Special Warfare Direct Support Course. Shannon left behind her husband and two children, aged three years and 18 months at the time of her death. 

Kate Hendricks died on April 5, 2022, after a battle with stage IV breast cancer with which she was diagnosed at the age 38, in 2018. Her cancer was attributed to exposure of burn pits during her deployment to Iraq. 

Kate left the military in 2008 to pursue her doctorate degree, and wrote several books discussing veteran’s mental health and women Veterans. She was also a fierce advocate for more research for those experiencing adverse effects of toxic burn pits On June 7, 2022, President Biden signed the Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas Supporting Expanded Review for Veterans in Combat Environments (SERVICE) Act, which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide mammograms to women with possible burn pit or other toxin exposure. 

Of course, every servicemember who has been lost has a story — and has left behind many people who are affected by their sacrifice. Memorial Day is a time to share their stories, ensuring  they are not forgotten. 

If you know someone who died while serving in the military, please share their story in the comments below.

Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Serviceis the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more. 

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