Memorial Day. What does it mean to me?

It means a time to reflect on my husband’s service and sacrifice. A time to reflect on the sacrifices of thousands of families like my own.

I met Jonny Porto in 2008 shortly after I graduated college. He was stationed on the Army post on which I worked and we met one summer weekend night at the bowling alley.

I was immediately struck by his charisma, sincerity, and devilishly handsome good looks. I spent the evening with him and his friends, and although I had just met them all, they made me feel like we’ve been friends forever. At the end of the night, Jonny asked me if he could kiss me. I figured, “Sure, why not?” Little did I know that would be the kiss that would change my life.

Many thought it was sudden when Jonathan proposed to me in November, but we knew it was right. We married on May 2, 2009, only 9 months after meeting. It was a true whirl-wind romance.

Jonathan and Rachel Porto Wedding Photo (2)

[(left to right) his sister Stephanie, his mom Rachel, his sister Emilie, us, and his brother Ben]

[Night after our wedding, with (left to right) his sister Stephanie, his mom Rachel, his sister Emilie, us, and his brother Ben]

On our honeymoon, we found out our family would already be growing. We settled into our new home in North Carolina outside of Camp Lejeune where Jonny was stationed. He was with an infantry unit, 1st Battalion 6th Marines, and I was setting up a new life far from my home state of Maryland and adjusting to Marine Corps life.

In December 2009, Jonathan’s unit received word they would be the first in a new surge of troops to Afghanistan. He left on December 8, 2009.

Jonathan and Rachel Porto Pregnant

On January 15, 2010, our daughter Ariana was born. I was fortunate to receive a call from him while I was in labor and because of that, he was present with me when his daughter graced this earth. We had a few months to go until he would be home with us and physically get to meet her.

Except, that day never came.

On March 15, 2010, two uniformed men rang my doorbell before dawn. A Navy Chaplain and a Marine Staff NCO from 6th Marine Regiment. Their words forever changed our lives as they informed me Jonathan had been killed the day prior.

[Memorial to Jonathan Porto, Marjah Afghanistan]

[Memorial to Jonathan Porto, Marjah Afghanistan]

It has been over 6 years since that fateful day. Over 6 years of figuring out life without him by my side. Still, every day I think of him, every day I miss him.

Memorial Day to me and our family is the day the rest of the nation gets a brief glimpse of our last 6 years. It is a day designed to reflect and feel gratitude for the men and women who have given up everything in the name of this nation. My husband, like all the others who have given their lives in war, had a story: He had a family, he had hopes and dreams and plans, he had a past and memories, he had his entire life ahead of him. Yet he chose to lay down all of that in the name of American Freedom.

Many people think of summer when they think of Memorial Day. Sure, I think of summer, too. I enjoy the barbecues and the long weekend, but I also think of the summer night I met the man who would become my husband. I think of all of my friends who have also had to say goodbye to their loves far too soon. I think of the true cost of war and the impact it has on all of us: those of us left behind, those of us fighting, those of us who might not feel an impact at all – it is there, and Memorial Day is the day to give thanks and remember all of those lives, futures, stories taken far too soon.

I am proud to be the widow of Cpl Jonathan Daniel Porto, USMC February 26, 1984 – March 14, 2010.

[Rachel Porto with daughter at Jonathan Porto Grave]

[Rachel Porto with daughter at Jonathan Porto Grave]

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WAJ Note: I am grateful to Rachel for sharing her memories with us. Her 2010 post at her own website, I Will Always Be a Marine Wife and at The Washington Post, Promises a Marine widow cannot bear to hear, are well worth reading.

Jon’s uncle Frank is a Legal Insurrection reader with whom I have communicated over the years. Jon’s mother, Rachel Bernaby, emailed me in response to my request for an update:

Hi, I’m not sure what I can update. I still feel I am living in a daze where Jon is concerned, it’s surreal. I keep tears at bay but they are at the surface. The family just misses him. Memorial Day is a sad day for too many families, but we do honor Jon and all those who gave their lives for our freedom.Thank you for remembering.