“HE WAS BURIED WITH MILITARY HONORS”
I feel very honored to meet people who have a passion for history and really feel we owe our veterans a lot.
I come from a military Dutch family. My grandfather fought the Germans as a company commander in May 1940 until Holland had to surrender. I have lots and lots of letters written in that period and also pictures. My grandfather became one of the founders of the OD (Ordedienst), a big Dutch resistance group existing of former Dutch military personnel. He even became a district commander but unfortunately got betrayed and arrested by the Sicherheid Dienst. But he did not give up and I have the letters he wrote while he was in prison. He found ways to get those letters smuggled out. My great aunt hid those letters in a can in the woods and dug it up after the war. I’m blessed she is still alive and even more blessed she gave the letters to me. The photograph shows my great aunt standing with the horses. One of the military horses was pregnant and gave birth just days before the Germans came into Holland.
This picture shows me standing on Omaha Beach as Corporal first class and a cadet at the NCO school. I had finished one 6-month tour in Bosnia at that time. I’ve been in the military for 19 years and retiring from active duty as of May 2018 and will be transitioning to a civil job with the DOD as a Senior Career Advisor for army medical specialists. I am deeply honored, to be given a chance to work with these brave men and women on this level. It has been such a long way to get where I want to be. I lost some great friends on the way and learned a lot of life lessons the hard way. But I can honestly say, there is no better school of life than life in active service.
On September 11, 2001, I remember cleaning my gear. We were in preparation of our upcoming tour to Bosnia when someone entered my room and said I should come and watch the television. People had already gathered as I joined them to watch the events of that day. I told the second in command of our company that it was expected to be a terrorist attack. I could see and feel everyone thinking about our upcoming tour and that it would probably change all our Army careers and everything forever. I felt like we were all the more determined to continue what we were supposed to be doing and what we were trained for. Eventually, it did change everything with events leading up to Al Qaida, Taliban, and ISIS. It has become the focus of our military work and a part of our daily military living. I lost friends in the fight against terror. I was awarded the Army medal exactly ten years after 9/11 on 9/11/2011. This was very symbolic for me, as no one could have planned this in advance, since the Army medal is awarded based on the amount of days in active service. I was very proud to receive that medal on that exact day!
I have a 12 year-old daughter named Lyahna. Her father, Chris Kakisnia was a Cpl with the Dutch paratroopers, 11th Airmobile Brigade. He served in Bosnia in 2000 (SFOR), Afghanistan (ISAF) 2002, Iraq (SFIR) 2004, and Afghanistan (ISAF) 2009. He did not talk much about his experiences but I could see he suffered from what he had gone through. I remembering waving goodbye to him in 2004, when he was leaving for Iraq. His body returned but he lost his soul there… His unit got involved in the ambush that was set up by militias of Al Sadr at Ar Rumaytah in August 2004, killing one and wounding 6 of them. One of the things he feared most were the guard duties; sitting on an over watch tower, with a big searchlight, staring into the pitch dark nigh and feeling like a sitting duck. Everyone can see you, but you can’t see what is going on in the dark.
When Chris died in 2011, his Iraq buddies attended the military funeral. Hundreds of people attended but the presence of his buddies is something I will never forget. About 8 young and big tough paratrooper men had tears running down their cheeks while saluting his casket. I guess this is what a ‘band of brothers’ is all about. I am still in touch with them. They don’t talk much and some of them say they still struggle daily. Chris was a long distance shooter early in his career but spent the last years in an Airmobile Anti Tank Unit using the GILL weapon system. He died because of an accident while attending NCO school. https://www.parool.nl/binnenland/verongelukte-militair-a2-verleende-hulp~a2841263/
Our daughter, Lyahna was only five years old when her father died. The days around his funeral she made two drawings. You can see the devastation as she pictured herself with many tears. But if you look closely, she drew her father in a coffin with a big smile on his face. I am convinced that she felt that he was at peace and relieved from the combat trauma he suffered. She is undergoing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization) treatment at the moment because she still struggles with her father’s death. Her therapist thinks she feels like she needs to carry her loss and grief on her own. It is important for a child to see, hear and feel that they are not alone in this.
She still has a hard time visiting her father’s grave. However, she seems to find comfort at an American Soldier’s grave in Normandy that we have adopted and to which we travel to visit 3 to 4 times a year. She chose that grave for a bigger reason I think. It’s because of her we started our search for any relatives of Cpl Shearer, the grave she seems to bond with at Colleville. She knows how hard it is to lose someone you love and yet she finds so much comfort in taking care of some of the WW2 graves. It’s pretty amazing. I am very proud my daughter feels that way. She always go there to lay flowers. She is getting older now and starting to realize more things now that she is becoming a teenager. The loss of her dad still plays a big part in her life and she struggles coping with her loss. We adopted two graves in Normandy and recently she said, “Mom those two adopted graves, they are like my brothers now right?” I could not be more proud of her.
I decided to give her a very special gift: the name of that paratrooper will be added to the Paratrooper Wall in Normandy reflecting also her father by mention of the slogan of the 507 as well the slogan of her fathers paratrooper unit (11 airmobile). The Plaquette will be revealed in August.
I am dedicated to spending my time on getting things right for those whose voices were silenced while fighting for my country. My daughter’s generation is tasked with preserving the soldier’s stories in the future.
~ Thulai, Dutch Veteran and Gold Star Family