Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Remembering the servicemembers who died in the service of their country.

Final letter to Command Sgt. Maj. James Blankenbecler

Jessica Blankenbecler, 14, e-mailed this final letter to her father, Command Sgt. Maj. James Blankenbecler, at 1:29 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 3., two days after he was killed in a convoy in Samara, Iraq. The Herald is publishing it, in its entirety, with the family's permission.

Hi Daddy,

Sorry I haven't written to you in a while. A lot of things have been going on. I miss you so much. How have you been? Is heaven everything it says it is? I know it's probably that and more. I can't wait 'till I can come join you again.

I miss you so much — just being here for me to hold your hand and you calling me "princess." But one day we can do this again. But it will be even better because Jesus will be with us.

I keep going in your office to see all your things and your awards that you have gotten over the years. You accomplished so much. I am proud you were my daddy; I would not have chosen anyone else. I like to go into your closet, too and just touch and smell all your clothes ... it gives me so many memories that I miss so much.

Sitting at this table I see your writing on a little piece of paper telling me and mom what e-mail and address in Iraq to write to you ... CSM JAMES D. BLANKENBECLER, 1-44 ADA. I love to just look at your handwriting so much.

I have your military ring on right now. It's kind of big for my little finger, but it makes me feel you're holding my hand when I have it on ... It's been on since we found out the news.

I have your driver's license with me, too, so I can just look at you whenever I want. You have a little smile this time. When we went to get them done in El Paso I asked you to just smile this time ... and you did it just for me. I also was looking at your car keys and that little brown leather pouch you always had on your key chain. It made me cry a lot when I picked it up.

Everything reminds me of you so much. When we pass by Chili's I remember you sitting across from me eating your favorite salad. You always told the waiter to take off the little white crunchy things ... because you hated them. And when we drive by billboards that say "An Army of One," it makes me remember you in your military uniform. How you always made a crunching sound when you walked, and how you shined your big boots every night before you went to bed. I miss seeing that all the time. Little things that I took for granted when you were here seem priceless now.

One thing that I regret is when you wanted to open my car door for me, but I always got it myself. I wish I would have let you do it. And when you wanted to hold my hand, I sometimes would pull away because I didn't want people to see me holding my daddy's hand ... I feel so ashamed that I cared what people thought of me walking down the parking lot holding your hand. But now I would give anything just to feel the warmth of your hand holding mine.

I can't believe this has happened to my daddy ... the best daddy in the whole world. It feels so unreal, like you're still in Iraq. You were only there for 17 days. Why did they have to kill you? Why couldn't they know how loved you are here? Why couldn't they know? You have so many friends that love you with all their hearts and you affected each and every person you have met in your lifetime. Why couldn't they know? When I get shots at the hospital I won't have my daddy's thumb to hold tight. Why couldn't they know I loved for you to call me "princess"? Why couldn't they know if they killed you I would not have a daddy to walk me down the aisle when I get married? Why couldn't they know all this? Why?

I know that you are gone now, but it only means that I have another angel watching over me for the rest of my life. That's the only way I can think of this being good. There is no other way I can think of it.

All the kids at my school know about your death. They even had a moment of silence for you at our football game. A lot of my teachers came over to try to comfort me and mom. They all ask if they can get us anything, but the only thing anyone can do is give me my daddy back ... and I don't think anyone can do that.

You always told me and mom you never wanted to die in a stupid way like a car accident or something like that. And you really didn't die in a stupid way ... you died in the most honorable way a man like you could — protecting me, mom, Joseph, Amanda and the rest of the United States.

In the Bible it says everyone is put on this earth for a purpose, and once they accomplished this you can return to Jesus. I did not know at first what you did so soon to come home to God. But I thought about it — you have done everything. You have been the best husband, father, son and soldier in the world. And everyone knows this.

One of my teachers called me from El Paso and told me that when her dad died he always told her, "when you walk outside the first star you see is me." She told me that it is the same for me and you. I needed to talk to you last night, and I walked outside and looked up ... and I saw the brightest star in the sky. I knew that was you right away, because you are now the brightest star in heaven.

I love you so much, daddy. Only you and I know this. Words can't even begin to show how much. But I tried to tell you in this letter, just a portion of my love for you. I will miss you, daddy, with all of my heart. I will always be your little girl and I will never forget that...

I love you daddy, I will miss you!!

P.S. I have never been so proud of my last name.

Sunrise - June 27, 1963

Sunset - October 1, 2003


• The memorial page for Army Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Blankenbecler