Sgt. Justin Avery Everett

Sgt. Justin Avery Everett 

April 24, 1978—Feb. 22, 2012

Growing up I really didn’t understand the true meaning of what Memorial Day meant even though my father was in the service. I just always attributed it to a long weekend where I got an extra day off of school. I don’t ever recall my elementary, middle or even high school acknowledging the meaning behind Memorial Day or even taking the time to take a moment of silence that Friday before Memorial Day to honor the men and women who gave their life for this country. 

As I grew older, Memorial Day was just another three-day weekend where I spent the weekend taking in all the great sales that big box stores offered, enjoying the savings I was getting as well as barbequing and hanging out with friends. 

Not once did I take into account all the men and women who died serving this great country. 

It wasn’t until 2012 that I fully grasped what Memorial Day was all about. I had lost my husband and the father of my children, Marine Sgt. Justin A. Everett, on Feb. 22, 2012, in a helicopter collision that took not only his life, but the lives of six other fine Marines. 

They were performing their last training mission before they were to deploy to Afghanistan. While my husband and his fellow brothers did not die in combat, they still died for their country.

As a military wife, I had always prepared for the worst to happen while Justin was deployed. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would happen stateside. 

Justin was 33 when he was killed. He left behind me and his daughter Avery, who was 5, and his son, Jacob, who was 2 at the time; in addition to his parents, brothers, extended family and numerous friends. 

For Memorial Day of that year, I was still newly widowed. I had lost my husband doing a job he loved. And let me tell you … he loved being a Marine. He was a crew chief on the UH-1 Huey.. He loved flying. He always said he felt right at home being up in the air on that bird. He loved being a patriot and serving his country. 

He joined the Marines right after 9/11. He said he felt called to serve, to protect his country and the freedoms of the American people. 

When Memorial Day came upon us, three months after Justin was killed, I finally understood what that day was all about. I hosted a gathering and invited Justin’s family and friends. We sat around and told stories about Justin and remembered all the good times we had with him.

Justin was laid back, fun loving and had the biggest heart you could imagine. He loved his children more than words can describe. He was so thrilled to be a father. 

When I was pregnant with our daughter, we had gone in for a 3D ultrasound, and the moment that wand hit my belly, you could clearly see that she looked just like her daddy. I remember saying, “Oh, she looks just like you!” Justin was smiling from ear to ear and just said, “Those Everett genes are strong.”

He couldn’t wait for his little girl to arrive. 

When the time came to find out what we were having with our second child, Justin wasn’t able to come to the appointment. I had called him right after to let him know that we were having a boy. He yelled at the top of his lungs, “I’m having a boy!” I could hear everyone in his shop hooting and hollering at the news. 

When Jacob arrived, he fell instantly in love with his son.

I have so many memories of Justin. I wish our daughter had more memories than she does, and I am heartbroken that our son doesn’t have any memories of his daddy. 

So as you gather this coming Memorial Day weekend, I ask that you take a moment to remember the men and women who so courageously paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms you enjoy today.

As Gary Sinse said, “It’s very, very important that we remember Memorial Day is about paying tribute to the men and women who have fallen in service and defense of freedom during the history of our country.” 

Lastly, when acknowledging the day, I ask that you kindly refrain from saying, “Happy Memorial Day,” as there isn’t anything “happy” about this day. 

Please remember that there are families out there who have lost their loved one while they were serving in the military. On Memorial Day, say a prayer for my family and other families that our brave men and women left behind, because Memorial Day is every day for us.

Holly Everett lives in Hudson with Avery and Jacob.

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