Stars and Stripes: You’ve probably seen the videos all over your newsfeed as Facebook celebrates its 10-year anniversary by looking back at users’ posts they’ve shared over the years.
But the social media giant has also released a “Ten Stories” feature that’s meant to celebrate how people have come together through Facebook, and there’s a particularly heart-wrenching one about a woman and her Marine boyfriend who was killed in Afghanistan.
Marine Sgt. William C. Stacey had been on the last of several deployments and was going to be a tactics instructor at Camp Pendleton, writes Kimmy Kirkwood, who was his girlfriend of more than three years. The two had been through the ups and downs of deploying and were looking forward to settling down upon his return.
“We could see the rest of our lives in front of us, we just had to get through the next few months,” Kirkwood wrote. “After four deployments in three and half years, we could finally get engaged and plan a future. Our calendars wouldn’t be paper countdowns ever again.”
Then Stacey, 23, was killed by an IED while on foot patrol in Now Zad in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2012.
“My world fell apart on Jan. 31, 2012,” Kirkwood recalled. “I was walking Otis (her cavachon) before work, when Will’s dad called. He had been hit by an IED on patrol and was killed. After getting off the phone with him, I blacked out for a few minutes before calling my family. It was the worst phone call any of us had ever received.”
And even more heartbreaking: “It was his mother’s birthday, and just 54 days before he was supposed to return home forever,” Kirkwood wrote.
Stacey was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Although not mentioned in Kirkwood’s story, it turns out that Stacey also wrote a last letter to his family that Kirkwood shared on a website dedicated to the fallen Marine.
Stacey wanted his loved ones to know that he died doing what he loved doing.
“Over the years so many have died, just as I have,” Stacey wrote. “We do this for the ones we care about; we do this because we believe that the good of the masses is worth more than that of ourselves.
“If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it,” he wrote.
Kirkwood details their relationship, which started with a high school crush in 2007 that didn’t go anywhere at the time, to the messages they exchanged on Facebook, to his much-anticipated homecomings, to the aftermath of Stacey’s death.
And her reason for sharing? To let Americans know how military families have to deal with well, being military families.
“So many Americans are completely untouched by war these days, it’s strange for them to even imagine what I, the Stacey’s, my family and everyone who knew Will had to go through,” Kirkwood posted on her Facebook later. “Many times they ask me to tell them about us, how we met, how I dealt with so many deployments, how I dealt with losing him.”
Check out their story here.