An Open Thank You

By: Robert Stanton
March 24, 2011
Orange County Register

Joyce and I wanted to speak to all of our friends who have been so concerned for our family and helpful these past weeks. We know how hard it has been on friends and family who are searching for words that can express their thoughts and prayers. We wanted you all to know that the effort of trying – in that act we knew Jordan mattered to so many – has been a great comfort in dealing with his death. Thank you.

Many have asked what can be done for Jordan and all the "Jordans" and their families. Joyce and I have an idea and thought the best way to explain it was to tell our story, so you can possibly feel as connected as we are. I ask that you indulge me and forgive us for burdening you with our sorrow.

Many people had often asked Joyce and me how we could let Jordan join the Marines, and we were at first caught off-guard. If you knew Jordan then you would know we did not "let" him; rather he spent three years researching all his options and decided that he wanted to be not just a Marine but a Recon Marine.

His motivation was in the truest sense unselfish, and he held a great respect for our country and its freedoms, and a personal feeling of responsibility towards continuing the beliefs of freedom and choice. He was also an intelligent, happy young man in search of something in his life that made a difference. He was not seeking fame or fortune but wanted to help people in the way he felt most qualified. Jordan is/was fierce, and, as his brother Ryan said, "had the heart of a lion."

So after a while, we decided it was the just the same fear and concern Joyce and I had every day since he joined the Marines, and we understood. You may ask how, as parents, siblings, wives, fiancées, etc., were we able to deal with this fear. I can tell you at times not well, however we are all honored Jordan had the faith in us to handle this burden. It was little compared to actually being a Marine.

On March 4, 2011, our lives changed forever. If you have anyone in the armed services, then you know what it means when uniformed Marines are knocking at your front door. My son, Ryan, was home alone and they could not speak to him, but he knew. He called Joyce, and she called me in a panic. We both raced home. Joyce arrived before me, which hurts me to this moment that she faced them without my help. As I drove racing through the streets, I kept praying for a mistake – talking to Jordan – and knowing that the Marines do not make this kind of mistake.

In my home the Staff Sergeant, Captain and Navy Chaplin were at attention, looking at us with a clear-eyed intensity that I came to recognize in every Marine. As the bearers of this horrible news, they carried this burden with so much reverence and compassion but placed our grief above all else. Imagine how difficult this duty is for them and still they press on.

From that moment forward began an odyssey that every step of the way a Marine was with Jordan 24 hours a day until he was laid to rest on March 17, 2011. These same Marines were at our side to support and help us through the "business" of bringing Jordan home. It is these next five days that changed our lives forever.

As family gathered, the Marines assigned to work with Joyce and me heard both our pain and sorrow but remained steadfast. The Marines arranged for Joyce, Julie and me to travel to Dover Air Force Base to meet our son. I have no way for describing what it is like to travel among people living their day-to-day lives while every moment and breath you take is filled with grief and thoughts for your fallen son. What I can say is that without these fierce Marines standing beside us and holding our hands we could not have made it.

We arrived at Dover around 9 on Sunday night. Raw with emotion, we were driven to a special location on base, the Fisher House. We learned that two wonderful patriots, Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, had the notion that homes for families of injured, sick and fallen heroes could be located near hospitals and in Dover so these families are able to be with the servicemen and servicewomen without financial hardship.

One special location is Dover Air Force Base. Here all fallen heroes are brought home. In this house, the specially trained servicemen and servicewomen receive the grieving families. They have a respect and understanding for the families that allows each to withstand the emotion of meeting their loved one.

I cannot say how helpful it was to be out of view from normal people. In those days we were not "normal" and needed to be surrounded by those who could both help and also respect our privacy. The Fisher House provided us this great service. We were able to sit quietly with one another, reflecting on Jordan, and then withdraw to our rooms to cry and be with each other. I was also allowed a respectful place to meet with and be guided through the hard business of death. The decisions that must be made – information they must reveal – all difficult to say the least, but again with the Marines' help we got through it all.

The moment arrived near midnight on Monday the 7th of March, 2011. We rode in a special bus from the Fisher House to the tarmac, where a plane sat with our son Jordan, his casket – draped with an American flag – guarded by Marines. The Chaplin turned to us as we rounded the corner and spoke these words: "It's going to get worse from here," and no truer words were ever spoken.

The emotion of seeing our son in that moment nearly overwhelmed us all – without the Marines' support it would have. We witnessed the dignified transfer of Jordan the Marines respectfully give all their fallen and then followed Jordan back to the mortuary and the Fisher House.

As heavy as the grief was in those moments, we all felt a great uplifting in stepping off the bus and back to the Fisher House. Somehow we all felt Jordan's strength, and in so the strength that all these fierce Marines possess, and for a moment we understood. We had a glimpse into what it is to be a United States Marine.

We hope you all can see through us the devotion and spirit embodied in these men and women we call Marines. I am so grateful that through my son's final sacrifice he gave to me this opportunity. Jordan has made me a better man and taught me something I may never have known, and Joyce and I hope this story helps you all understand his sacrifice too. Perhaps we can all be better for his death.

If you want to help, let's raise some much-needed funds for the Fisher House, for those fallen Marines yet to come and their families. You can download a donation form at fisherhouse.org/assets/119/FisherHouseDonationForm.pdf. Please designate the donation be shared with the Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base/USMC and that it be in honor and in memory of Cpl. Jordan Robert Stanton, USMC.