Marybeth LeVan spoke calmly about her son, recalling the events that will stay with her for the rest of her life.
LeVan’s son, Kyle Jason Grimes, was a corporal with the U.S. Marine Corps when he died in action Jan. 26, 2005. He was on his way to the Iraq-Syrian border when the helicopter he was in crashed, killing him, 29 other Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman.
LeVan told the story while speaking about Grimes’ name being added to the Louisiana War Memorial on Memorial Day. Her son’s name was one of 128 added to honor Louisiana residents who have died fighting in the war on terrorism since 2001. LeVan’s voice quivered a little bit, but she remained composed, as if talking about the events brings her some comfort.
“It still seems surreal. It just gives me chills,” LeVan said. “Each time we attend a ceremony like (the one on Memorial Day), I think it just makes it all more real for me, that he’s actually gone.”
Maury Drummond, director of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum, said the names were added all at once because the museum was trying to wait for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to end.
“We wanted to make sure we honored these soldiers now in a way that we could continue to add names,” he said.
Names previously engraved on the wall were listed in alphabetical order. The museum took a different route this time.
Each name is listed by year of death instead of alphabetically. For instance, Grimes’ name is listed under 2005.
Drummond said about 400 people attended the Memorial Day ceremony.
“The reaction was one of solitude and remembrance and a great deal of respect,” Drummond said.
LeVan is a member of two organizations that support mothers whose children have died during military service: Gold Star Mothers and Blue Star Mothers of Louisiana.
LeVan said she has made “countless” friends through the two organizations.
LeVan said she felt a wave of support after her son’s death. She received cards and letters of condolence from total strangers.
“This area just embraced us with so much sympathy and support,” LeVan said.
LeVan said she finds some comfort in events like the Memorial Day ceremony because so many people attend to honor the fallen. “There were so many parents and families of fallen heroes present that you could just feel everybody’s pain at the memorial,” LeVan said.
Jan McCurdy knows that feeling.
McCurdy was at the Memorial Day ceremony to see her son’s name unveiled.
“When they unveiled the wall, it was hard,” McCurdy said. “I had tears, and I know the others did, too.”
McCurdy’s son, Lance Cpl. Ryan McCurdy, died Jan. 5, 2006, in Fallujah while saving another man’s life. Ryan ran out to pull a fellow soldier out of barbed wire and was hit by a bullet in the neck.
“I knew he could take care of himself, but I didn’t count on the fact that he might have to go out and try to rescue somebody and put his own life at risk,” McCurdy said.
McCurdy said she is grateful her son’s name is on the wall to be remembered forever. Ryan McCurdy also has a display in the USS Kidd’s hall of honor, which celebrates military personnel from Louisiana who do something extraordinary.
“I know he would be so proud to know that no one has forgotten him,” she said.
Jan McCurdy, like LeVan, has met hundreds of new friends through Blue Star Mothers and Gold Star Mothers.
“Everybody has been so good in this city to honor all those who lost their lives,” she said.
Robert Stewart is a general assignments reporter for The Advocate. His e-mail address is email@example.com.