Tomorrow will hit the King family—parents Nancy and Arthur and daughter Jessica—differently than ever before.
Dad’s proud. So is Mom. She’s already cried.
What’s tomorrow? Veterans’ Day.
This year, a member of their immediate family is serving in the military, in Afghanistan.
Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew King has been in Nawa since May. Matthew, 22, is a member of an eight-person scout sniper platoon. The family can’t describe in any detail what he’s doing.
Yesterday was particularly emotional for Nancy King. She teaches third grade at the Reeves Elementary School. The Reeves held its Veterans Day program yesterday. Her niece, substitute teacher Kristen Slagmolen of Woburn, and two other teachers put on the program. Students sang a “beautiful song,” King said. That made her “verklempt,” overcome with emotion, and primed her tear ducts.
During the song, students offered names of people in the service. One student named her son.
“I filled up more,” Nancy King said, and tears began to stream down her cheeks.
At the end of the song, another student named her son.
By then, “I’m bawling like a baby,” King said. The Reeves students met Matthew last year.
“I miss him so much,” Nancy King said. “The emotions are overwhelming.”
Matthew’s name and photo came up Monday at the Altavesta Elementary School. Matthew’s sister is a paraprofessional there. Since the music teacher is out on maternity leave, Jessica King helped the substitute teacher prepare the school’s Veterans’ Day program. She made a slide show of photographs of veterans from students, along with artwork they drew about veterans. She included a photo of her brother and his platoon.
And this saying: “Heroes don’t wear capes. They wear dog tags.”
Matthew’s dog, Deebo, a 72-pound American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, padded around the kitchen table during the interview. When the family and Deebo picked Matthew up at the airport last Christmas, Matthew’s dad, said, Deebo sat on Matthew’s lap all the way home.
Matthew’s family said his joining the Marine Corps was not a total surprise. His cousin, Ryan Dunnigan, several years older, is a Marine, too. Matthew's father was a Navy survival instructor. Both his grandfathers are veterans. Arthur King, Sr., was an Army veteran of World War II. Robert Dunnigan of Woburn served in the Air Force.
“We’ve talked about this stuff,” Matthew’s dad said Wednesday, sitting with his wife and daughter at the family’s kitchen table.
“He’s heard about this his whole life,” said his mother.
When Matthew was little, they painted his room camouflage style, she said. When he was 2, they got him a military-style jump suit. “He wouldn’t take it off,” his father said. After the local Veterans’ Day parade, his mother said he would pick up the empty shells from the rifle salute. Matthew graduated from WMHS in 2007.
Nancy King received the first blue star banner in the city after Memorial Day. A blue star indicates that a family member is in the service. Matthew’s maternal grandmother, Lauretta Dunnigan, also received a blue flag, his mother said.
“I know how it is over there,” Arthur King said, from reading and from his daughter’s friends who have served overseas.
“It hits differently when it’s your brother,” Jessica said.
They’re able to talk with Mathew by phone and Skype with him. There’s an 8-and-a-half-hour time difference. He’s called his sister at school, “while I’m teaching,” she said.
Matthew will be coming home for a visit next month.
“I know Veterans Day is for living (veterans),” Arthur King said. But he can’t escape thinking, he said, that some in active service will never come home.
The annual Veterans’ Day Parade will be held tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 11, starting at 10 a.m. at Central Square on Main Street, near the Wyman School, to the Common. A ceremony will be held at the Common at 11 a.m. Friday.