We reprint the following letter written just yesterday, May 29, 2013, by Nicholas Olivas’ father Adolf and posted on Facebook. It is raw, heartwarming and will touch you in a very profound way. A year ago today – May 30, 2012 – Nicholas died from injuries sustained by an IED while serving his country.
We as Americans often go about our day without regard to what is happening around us. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, we should be aware – mindful and respectful – of the sacrifices that are made by those who are members of our esteemed military. They and their families should be hailed and respected. Their lives are forever changed even in the best of circumstances, but for some, the change is far deeper and more permanent and they must search for a way to move on.
To Nicholas Olivas – Thank you. The AFHM sends out a huge personal salute to you (and all your brothers) for your bravery and your willingness to lay your life on the line so that we may continue to enjoy our freedom.
To Adolf Olivas – Thank you for allowing us to post this raw emotional letter so that others can have a personal look inside the soul of a father who has lost his son to war. And a salute to you, Nicholas’ mother and siblings, his wife and son and all of Nicholas’ friends for playing a role in his life, for everyone who touched him helped to create the brave warrior who served our nation.
To all who read this – Please do so with respect. Many do not agree with our governments’ choices to become involved in other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. However, whatever your beliefs and/or convictions, we should ALWAYS honor the noble intent with which these men and women serve.
Remember, this letter is from one person – Nicholas’ father. There are many others who were deeply affected by Nicholas’ loss, his mother, his siblings, his wife and son, friends and fellow soldiers. There are many other soldiers who are lost each and every day, whose families have written similar letters, who have opened their hearts and poured it out through their pen. Others have remained silent.
This letter is just one of the millions of reasons we at the Armed Forces History Museum do what we do – honorably preserve the history of our esteemed military. We are proud of the role we play to teach the younger generations on the sacrifices that have been made throughout history so that this nation can continue to enjoy the freedom it has fought so hard to maintain. (The following has not been edited.)
A Letter from Adolf Olivas to His Son Nicholas
It has been a year. One year ago tonight, we were looking thru an album of photos as we remembered our wedding anniversary. We paid peculiar attention to the photos of my best man – Nicholas. So young. So funny. So Nick! Little did we fathom that the next day would be etched in our memories as well.
Today marks the end of all the “firsts.” One year ago tonight, Nicholas laid down his life when his unit was attacked by an IED. Each first was difficult and frightening. The first Father’s Day without his call, the first 4th of July, the first Thanksgiving without him eating us out of house and home, the first birthdays of his sisters without his sassy remarks, the first Christmas without his wry grin, the first New Years that started with tears and not toasts, his first birthday in February without agonizing what to get him, the first Memorial Day that really hit us at home, and today — the first anniversary of the dreaded call and the soldiers at the door.
At times, it was all a rush and at other times, it was all slow motion. A moment of laughter could, in a wink, turn into a tear. A song on the car radio could cause miles of silence. I cried through much of Les Miserable. I cried in the death scene in the new Star Trek movie. Then, there were all the ceremonies – the scholarships in his name, the roadway dedication, the Patriot Guard mission for another fallen hero, the tree planting, the invitations to share on TV or in person. As if I truly had any wisdom to impart to others. I didn’t. I don’t. I have found that there are indeed no words to assuage the hurt of others or to comfort my own pain. There have been moments I could never share and there were experiences I had to share. There were times I questioned my own faith in a God and in a heaven – all the while knowing that I needed to be reassured in their existence. I have met many other parents who have lost their soldier son or daughter. We share a bond, but we really can never truly share our pain. It is ours. It is personal. And it is ours alone. Those closest to us, who seek to shoulder it with us, are often hurt by the impossibility of their task. It cannot be shared. It cannot be explained. It cannot be lessened. It just IS. It remains. It reminds. It hurts. It is permanent. It passes. It returns. It haunts. It heals.
I have learned that there is great truth in the axiom, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Perhaps, I am not really stronger, but I am wiser, and more sensitive to the world around me. A colleague has shared with me that nothing seems to bother me very much anymore. In a sense that is true. As I have said to some in moments of anger, “what do I care? – What can they do to me now?” [No one ever falsely accused me of being warm and fuzzy.] However, I also discovered that some things bother me now, which once upon a time were merely events in someone else’s life. The shooting in Sandy Hook and the TV coverage of parents running toward the school to hopefully find their child caused me deep, personal pain. The recent tornado in Norman and the thought of children killed so randomly caused me pain, and to slam closed my laptop. The Boston Marathon bombing was particularly poignant because of the memories it resurrected in me of Nick’s death in an explosion. I have learned that as a parent I still have a NEED to protect my children [regardless of their adult age] from anything or anyone that may hurt them. They may not understand or appreciate that – but the drive is real. Today, I still ask myself if there was anything I could have done differently to have saved my son. As if the flutter of a butterfly’s wings on the other side of the earth could cause a gust of wind here. Silly? Of course. Useful? Probably not. Real? Yes.
So why am I posting this (here)? It is not to evoke a response – although “likes” and shares are a means of support. There is a purpose. I acknowledge that social media in today’s world does serve a purpose when we feel a need to share. I used to see FB as a toy – it is much more than that. There have been nights when I would surf here to seek consolation and hope.
Second, going forward I want to replace the pain of the last year with the abundant good memories he and I shared. I will spend much of today and tomorrow at the cemetery reflecting, and yes, talking to my son. That is not much different than it has been. There have been many weeks when I was a daily visitor. But now I will be seeking to feel him closer, and not merely gone. I will seek to be at peace with the path ahead. I am resolving to move forward as Nicholas would have wanted. This purpose is only possible because of the third and final point that follows.
I want to thank every person in my life that has tried to touch me this year. Each effort was appreciated and is remembered. Some of those touches were on these posts. Some of those touches were in person. Some of those touches I know were in prayers, and candles, and flags, and cards, and letters, and kindnesses too numerous to mention. Some have given me space – some have given me a space to just be me. The Speaker of the House of Representatives memorialized Nicholas by name in his national message to the Nation on Monday. My neighbors raised money for a tree in Veteran’s Park and posted hundreds of flags by their mailboxes [some to this day]. Nicholas’ brothers in arms have tattooed his name or picture on their bodies. The State put up road signs. And my co-workers in particular have supported us to a degree that defies description – they covered my cases, attended events, closed the office, feed us when we didn’t feel like cooking, and gave me a safe place to be me and do my lifework, etc. I know I can never thank them adequately.
I know I have failed to mention much. . . but let me close this year with this.
Nicholas will never be forgotten. He has touched more people than he would have ever thought possible. He left a son (r) to follow and carry on his name. He left memories to fill a library. I will see Nicholas again one day, and while I look forward to that reunion – I have got a lot more to do here for him, and for me, and for my family before I stand down.
Rest in peace baby boy. Rest in peace in the arms of a loving God who will never allow any more pain to touch you. Watch over us all – as you did in life, so shall you do from above. Te quiero mi hijo. — with Nicholas Olivas.