Ceremony honors service of veterans

Published 6:52 pm Friday, November 12, 2021

While a chaplain in the U.S. Army, Rev. Darrell Thomsen Jr. recalled numerous times having to visit someone’s home to help deliver news, as he said, that would change the course of those family members’ lives.

He had to share, of course, that their loved one had died in service to their country.

Thomsen shared an indelible memory of such a visit during a Nov. 11 Veterans Day ceremony at Lake Prince Woods. It featured the Nansemond River High School color guard, numerous veterans, patriotic music from members of the Sounds of Time and Thomsen as a guest speaker. Residents who served were honored with a pinning by Capt. Joshua Mellor, Sgt. Mariah Thornton, A1C Alena Stoner and A1C Nixa Santana, who serve at Langley Air Force Base.

On one visit to share the news of a death of a loved one, Thomsen arrived at a home a few minutes before the normal 10 p.m. cutoff for such visits with the notifying officer, knocking on the door and having it open to a mother and father who instantly knew what they were about to hear.

As Thomsen recalled, it didn’t make hearing it any easier for them as their eyes went to total shock.

The mother screamed.

No. 

One more time, she screamed.

No.

She threw the door open, grabbed Thomsen’s uniform, squeezing it to the point of distorting the ribbons on it.

No.

That was the last word she spoke that evening.

They made the notification and spent time talking with the father before they left.

The next day, Thomsen called, and they invited him over for dinner.

Opening the door, the mother apologized to Thomsen.

“I’m so sorry,” Thomsen recalled her saying.

“And I said, ‘Sorry for what? You have no need to be sorry.’”

She said he didn’t understand, that she was sorry for saying why.

The father then called to him and showed him a letter from their son — he had written it for them to read if he died while in service — that he had asked them to read only after those who notified them had left. The father knew to do this because he had walked in on his son writing it.

In the letter, Thomsen shared:

“He told his mom and dad how much they meant to him. He told his mom and dad how much his life was blessed because of the way that they raised him. He told his mom and dad that he was doing what he was doing because of what they had instilled in him.

“He told his mom exactly what she was going to do, and she did exactly what he wrote in the letter. … And the mom was caught by that because she couldn’t believe that the son knew all of that. And then he said to his mom in that letter, “I died doing what you taught me to do, and that is, make a difference in the lives of people.”

“And that kid made a difference, and he transformed their environment from an environment of hopelessness to an environment of hope.”

From that point, Thomsen said, they committed themselves to making a difference in other people’s lives, to make their lives better.

“I say to you, thank you, for committing your life to making things better,” Thomsen said. “You have made a difference. You are making a difference. You will make a difference.”