BUFFALO, N.Y. — Two decades after he became among the first local casualties of the Iraq War, a Buffalo soldier will be honored on Memorial Day.
A brick, bearing the name of US Army PFC David Evans Jr. will be the latest to be installed at the Western New York African American Veterans Monument during a ceremony at 2 pm Monday.
A son's sacrifice, a mother's memory
In her home in Buffalo's Cold Springs neighborhood, Esther Macklin is surrounded by reminders of her son.
Private First Class David Evans Jr. was the third of what would eventually be 53 Western New Yorkers who became casualties in the Iraq War.
He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
"That's where I wanted him to be," Ms. Macklin said. "He was great young man, and I just felt he needed to be with the greatest of the greats."
PFC Evans joined the Army after graduating from Kensington High School.
He wanted to be an FBI agent and thought becoming an Army MP would set him on the course.
His mother signed the papers, even though she didn't really want to.
"Because of the possibility of him not coming back ... and that's exactly what happened," she said.
Her son was killed on May 25, 2003, when a munitions dump his unit was guarding exploded. The Army determined it was due to horseplay, when some of Evans' comrades were lighting the fuses as a joke prior to the blast.
One of them was brought up on charges but, as his Court Marshal was about to begin, Evans' cause of death was changed from homicide to accidental.
It's something that haunts Macklin to this day.
"They were not charged with my son's death ... and I just feel like they've gotten away with murder."
A mother soldiers on
There is a saying that is as old as time, that time heals all wounds.
But in all that time, no one has ever said how much time that should take.
"It's just hard to even imagine it's been 20 years...and it seems like yesterday," Macklin said.
She will attend the ceremony on Memorial Day with pride, to honor the sacrifice of her beloved son and the beloved son of a nation.
"We are stronger than we think, and we have to carry on and try and keep their memory alive," she said.