Friday, January 2, 2015

10 Years Later: Remembering Lance Cpl Karl Linn

My adulthood begins with Karl Linn. Karl and I dated while we were both at VCU. It didn’t work out, but even when we weren’t dating, we were very good friends. For those of you who don’t know, on January 26, 2005, Lance Cpl. Karl R. Linn of Chesterfield, Virginia was killed in action in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. It was not until the next day that we heard he had died. On January 27, 2005, I turned 21.

I won’t go into that day, because I’ve gone over it in my head, with others, and in my writing so, so many times. My Dad’s memories of that day will have to suffice. And that’s not really the point of this post.

The point of this post is two-fold. Firstly, it’s been 10 years and I still feel this impulse to tell people, ‘There was this really amazing guy who’s not here anymore and his presence and absence in my life plays a huge role in who I am and the way I carry myself.’ I need people to know and remember him.

Last year I was asked by a publication what I wanted people to remember about Karl.

To those who didn't know him, I hope people remember that when he set out to achieve something, no obstacle could stand in his way. He fought hard to become a Marine and he absolutely loved it.

Karl was a smart, sweet guy who was respectful of all people, who demonstrated over and over again that chivalry isn't dead and did so through his good manners, consideration of others, and simple gestures of kindness. He was a man of integrity with a strong moral compass. He was a good son, brother, grandson, boyfriend, and friend. He was a talented artist, an analytical thinker, a designer, and above all, a nerd.

But that's not what stands out in my mind when I look back at his life. To me, what I remember most fondly is a tree in Stuart Circle. After a week of midterms, he and I were burned out, so we went for a late night walk through Richmond's Fan district. On our way back to the dorm, we passed by St. John's United Church of Christ located on Stuart Circle. There is tall a maple tree next to the church, and as we passed it, like some kind of woodland creature, Karl leapt up, grabbed a low hanging branch, and scrambled up the tree. He grinned down at me from his perch, "I can go higher," he informed me, proudly. I remember smiling and telling him he probably shouldn't—he could fall out and break his neck. So naturally, he climbed higher. He checked for my reaction every branch or so, his grin getting bigger each time I laughed or squealed that he could get hurt. When he finally made his way down, I told him he was crazy; that made him laugh. When I think of Karl, I remember a boy who climbed a tree, just to make me smile and maybe impress me a little, because that's the kind of guy he was."

Grief never really goes away. It becomes a companion, a part of you, but not apart. If you let it work its way through you, loss can grow into celebration and remembrance, but the pain itself never really goes away. It just becomes a dull background noise that occasionally gets sharper.

This is one of those sharp times for me.

So now we’re at the second reason why I’m writing this post. This birthday I don’t want any presents. Karl loved being a Marine, but he saw the toll it took on his brothers and sisters in the military. The lack of normalcy, constantly being on alert, and being away from familiar places and loving faces weighs heavily on members of our military. So in memory of Karl, I’d like to ask that you all consider helping me raise $1000 for the USO. That’s $100 for every year he’s been gone. I’m also asking you to consider passing along this request to anyone you know who might be willing to contribute.

You can contribute by donating here at my GoFundMe page! If you’d rather make your donation directly, you can do so by going to the USO site.

Thank you all for the years of support you’ve each provided. I’m so proud of Karl. He inspires me every day. He saw some things in me that I couldn’t see. He saw some things in the world that I’m still trying to see.

Thank you for helping me honor his memory and thank our men and women in the military. All my love, guys.


  1. I've sent an email to everyone and posted this on FB. I am so proud of you for doing this, BabyBear and so proud that I raised a daughter who inspired love and friendship in such a fine young man.

  2. $100 given directly to the USO through your link to their page, so you can add that to the count of whatever you are raising on Justfundme's site.