YOU KNOW the days in life you cannot forget?--meeting your future husband or wife usually is one of them. For Colleen, meeting Jeremy Katzenberger was the beginning of the rest of her life. In college, Jeremy asked Colleen to a dance, and they started dating. Jeremy soon left for basic training and, for six weeks, the two exchanged handwritten love letters. After graduating from basic training, Jeremy proposed; 19 days later, they were married.
The couple spent their early years together finishing college. Four years after exchanging vows, they welcomed a son, Everett, into their family. "I think that is the happiest I ever saw my husband," said Colleen, thinking about the first time Jeremy held their child.
In 2011, Colleen was traveling with Everett to meet a friend at the airport. It was there that Colleen experienced another day that she never will forget. "I had this huge smile on my face and turned to my friend, and the minute I saw her face--she has these big blue eyes and they were just filled with tears --and ... thought, 'Oh my God, this isn't good.'"
Colleen's friend and her husband led Colleen to a small conference room inside the airport, where Army officials were waiting. "I looked at her and I said, 'Oh my God, is it my husband or my brother?' because they were both gone."
Colleen's brother, Patrick, also was deployed at the time. "A chaplain knelt down on one knee and started reading this statement. All I heard was, 'On behalf of the United States President, we regret to inform you that Staff Sgt. Jeremy ... ' and that was it. That was all I heard. That was all I heard.... I curled up into a ball because what do you do when your world ends? What do you do? I curled into this ball ... and then I heard Everett."
Everett was seven months old when Jeremy was killed, and became man of the house as Colleen figured out what life without Jeremy would be like. For most people, this is where the story ends. For Maj. Dan Rooney, this is where the story begins.
In 2007, Rooney, an Air Force fighter pilot, was on a flight to Grand Rapids, Mich. On that same flight were twin brothers, only one of whom was alive; the other had fallen in service. Cpl. Brock Bucklin's remains were being returned to his wife and young child. When preparing to land the flight, the captain asked the passengers to wait for the fallen veteran to be removed from the plane before exiting themselves. As the passengers got off, Maj. Rooney looked out the window to...