In her eyes, Deadre Henderson's brother Miles was "always 10 feet tall and bulletproof."
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"He was my superman," she said.
But in November 2006, Henderson received a call that would carve a hole in her heart.
"Prince Charming wouldn't be coming home," she said. "Our family chain would forever be short one link."
Henderson ('09) shared her brother's story with a group of about 35 William & Mary students, faculty and staff members in the College's Sunken Garden Thursday as part of the annual Moment of Remembrance. The event is sponsored by the Veterans Society of William & Mary to "honor and remember those who have served and sacrificed, both in the defense of our nation and service in general," said Lance Zaal ('09), the society's president.
"It provides the William & Mary community a venue in which to share and honor the memories of their friends or loved ones, many who have given their lives in service to America," said Zaal. "First is that we honor those who have served -- the true speakers of the event. Second and most importantly, I hope that the event advances the healing process of any speakers hurt by their loss. Lastly, I hope the speakers will impart on the audience a solemn sense of gratitude and appreciation for the lives we sometimes take for granted on a daily basis."
Along with Henderson, Zaal and Joshua Lawton-Belous also spoke at the event. John Miller, an instructor of English and Coast Guard Reservist, served as the host.
Zaal spoke about his friend and fellow Marine Antoine Smith, whom Zaal had met in 2003 while they were both stationed in Williamsburg. Zaal said that he, Smith and some other Marines had spent a lot of their spare time in Williamsburg on the campus of William & Mary and with William & Mary students.
"I think it's so appropriate to share this story here because Smith spent a lot of time here at William & Mary," he said.
Smith deployed to Iraq in 2004 and was killed that November after being struck by a sniper's bullet.
"Myself and the rest of Smith's friends had just returned from Iraq, and we never got a chance to go to his funeral because about six weeks after our return, we received orders to deploy a second time," said Zaal. "Even though I was never able to attend his funeral or meet his family, I'll always remember the kind person that Smith was."
"It's such a tragedy that such a great person is no longer with us," said Zaal.
Lawton-Belous, who served about 29 months in Iraq, spoke about a friend and fellow soldier named Jonathon who had served under Lawton-Belous as a medic.
"There weren't many men who were like Jonathon, said Lawton-Belous. "He was always willing to go out there and learn new medical techniques. He was always willing to go out there and help his fellow comrades."
Lawton-Belous suffered injuries himself in Iraq and was being treated in the United States when he received a call saying that Jonathan had been killed.
"Unlike some others, I was fortunate to be back in the states so I could attend his funeral," he said. "To see the hurt in his mother's eyes, his wife's eyes and his family and to not be able to talk to his family because they only spoke Spanish probably hurt the most. It took me a while with freetranslation.com to be able to write a letter to them that would adequately express the loss - how it felt."
Lawton-Belous, who began the non-profit organization Education for Virginia Veterans, presented John Miller with an award of appreciation at the end of the event for his help in supporting veterans at William & Mary.
Miller said that though the event evoked painful memories for those who had lost loved ones, "memory makes what these men sacrificed for that much more precious."
"Today is an opportunity to recall this," he told the attendees. "I hope you will bear it in mind tomorrow and the days afterward as you benefit in the world that their service has bought us."
Henderson said that there will always be a "Miles-shaped hole" in her heart.
"That hole will never be completely fixed, but over the last two years, the edges have become a little less raw, and patches have been added by those closest to me," she said. "Thank you for adding a patch by your presence here today. I continue to live one breath at a time. Each breath reminding me how much I miss my hero."
She encouraged her fellow students to remember those like her brother during the last day of classes and to raise a toast in their honor.
"To them that's here, to them that's gone, to them we'll see again," she said.