Victor Dew Post Office Naming
House Chamber, Washington, D.C.
November 28, 2012
I never met Marine Corps Lance Corporal Victor Dew, but I feel that I have gotten to know him since the day he came home to Granite Bay to be laid to rest in a hero’s grave, in the midst of his family, his friends and neighbors, his community and his comrades in arms.
That day, I discovered his next door neighbor is a long-time acquaintance of mine. He had watched this young man grow up and was absolutely devastated. In that bitter sorrow he represented the anguish of an entire community that had watched Victor Dew grow up to be an always-good-natured, always-helpful, always-pleasant lad who everyone knew was destined to do great things.
That same day, I met Victor Dew’s younger brother, Kyle, and I think got a fleeting glimpse of Vic in his little brother. Kyle was seated with a group of his grade-school friends. When I offered my condolences, one of his friends said, “We came to cheer him up, and instead, he’s cheering us up.”
That day, I met Victor Dew’s parents, Patty and Tom Schumacher, whose intense pride in their son fused with inexpressible sorrow into a transcendent dignity that I simply cannot describe in words. Lincoln came the closest in his famous letter to Mrs. Bixby when he wrote of laying “so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
I’ve gotten to know Victor’s parents in the more than two years since that costly sacrifice. I see them at the funerals of other fallen heroes, offering comfort to other bereaved families in a way only those who have gone through such a loss can truly understand. I frankly, cannot begin to understand what they have gone through, and continue to go through, every day. Whenever I try to imagine myself in their shoes, my mind recoils. I can only marvel at the strength that they summon.
Time does not heal all wounds. For these Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day; and every day their grief is just as great as it was when the casualty officer appeared on their threshold.
At a Gold Star dinner several years ago, I confided to our hosts that I still did not know what to say to these families. She smiled and said, “Just ask them about their sons.”
So let me tell you a little of what I know about Victor Dew.
Everybody who knew him always began with the same thing: Victor was one of those sunny personalities who lifted the spirits of everyone around him. That’s the recurring theme in the recollections of everyone who knew him – they’d be feeling down and Victor would lift them up. I have no doubt that Kyle got that quality from his brother.
Victor attended Granite Bay High School where he played on the high school football team. His real passion, though, was the martial arts, in which he ultimately achieved a double-black belt in jujitsu. His Jujitsu teacher, Clint Le May told the Los Angeles Times, "When I met him, he was a like a 30-year-old man walking in a 13-year-old's body. He was wise beyond his years and knew how to deal with all kinds of people."
In High School, he met a remarkable young lady by the name of Courtney Gold. They both went on to attend Sierra College, and that’s when they began dating.
Victor had great plans. He had grown up dreaming of becoming a Marine. When he was 12 years old, he had hung a Marine Corps flag over his bed. Every morning after that, he woke under that flag and the proud words on it: Semper Fidelis.
He steeped himself in military history. He was fully aware of the mortal dangers he would face, yet in the summer of 2009, he enthusiastically enlisted. When Courtney asked him why, he said, “It’s my dream, and I feel like I need to do this.”
One of his comrades put it this way: “Victor lived every day with a purpose like it was his last. He always had a joke to tell you or a way to make your day better. He would have tough days and instead of being negative he would say, “This is the kind of stuff I live for.”
He had everything to live for. Before shipping out, he brought Courtney to one of his favorite places in the world, Disneyland, where he asked her to be his wife. They were to be married when he returned.
In the Marines, he was offered a posting to a ceremonial position on the Presidential detail right here in Washington. But he turned it down. He believed his duty and destiny was to keep the fight away from our shores; away from his family and his country; and so he chose combat even when he had been offered safe and honorable service at home.
Instead of the prestigious Presidential detail he had been offered, Victor Dew chose to become one of the “Boys of 3/5”: Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment of the First Marine Division.
He deployed to combat duty in Afghanistan on September 25th, 2010. Less than three weeks later, on October 13th, 2010, Lance Corporal Victor Dew, age 20, died from his wounds after his column was ambushed and an explosive device destroyed his vehicle. Lost with him were Corporal Justin Cain, 22, Lance Corporal Joseph Rodewald, 21; Lance Corporal Phillip D. Vinnedge, 19.
The next week, a black hearse with the Marine Corps Emblem brought him home to Granite Bay and to a hallowed grave.
Courtney had already bought her wedding dress in anticipation of a far happier homecoming. The day before Victor’s funeral, she put it on, had a wedding photographer take her portrait, and placed the photo in Victor’s casket.
And then he was laid to rest, with all the honors we accord to our heroes. Posthumous medals and a promotion. Full military honors. A flag given to a grieving mother on behalf of a grateful nation.
Seven hundred seventy seven days have passed since that awful day in Helmand Province. In those 777 days, Victor Dew might have come safely home, would have married Courtney Gold, they might have started a family by now and he would be well embarked on a long and happy life and a promising career.
As painful as it is to reflect on what might have been, it is important that we do so, because in that pain is the measure of how much these young men gave up and how their families grieve for them. They won’t grow old to enjoy the blessings of liberty they died to secure for our country and for a country half a world away.
A few years ago, I had the honor to visit members of the Third United States Infantry Old Guard who tend the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington Cemetery. Tourists often watch them on warm spring days: meticulously dressed and painstakingly drilled, honoring the memory of these soldiers.
Tourists don’t often show up during hurricanes or in driving snow storms or at two a.m. in sleet and hail. But the Old Guard does. They commit two years of their lives to this service, under the strictest of conditions.
I asked a young sergeant, “Why? Why do you do this?”
“Because Sir, we want to demonstrate to our fellow Americans that we will never forget.”
Lance Corporal Victor Dew will not be forgotten. His family will see to that. His friends and neighbors will see to that. His Marine brethren will see to that. His country will see to that.
Today the United States House of Representatives considers legislation to name the Post Office in Victor Dew’s hometown of Granite Bay in his honor, as a simple token of that commitment.
All things mortal will pass. Someday this Post Office will be gone. Someday we will be gone. But the selfless deeds and quiet patriotism of young men like Victor Dew are recorded not in plaques and buildings and memorials but rather in the eternal and indestructible archives of time itself. They will not tarnish or fade – they will stand for the ages as a testament to the value of liberty, the character of those who step forth to defend it, and as the most profound lesson of the true meaning of the words that Victor Dew awakened under from the time he was 12 and that he now sleeps under for all eternity:
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