A soldier who fell during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is honored by a local elementary school he attended years ago. Freddy Velez will forever be remembered as a hero at Waters Elementary. From now on, everyone who walks into one of the main entryways will be reminded of Freddy as they see the elm tree that the school dedicated to him on February 17th.
Just after the ceremony, Freddy's father, Roy Velez described his son's last letter to his wife Nickie; "In the last soldier's letter, he said 'if you're reading this letter, something terribly went wrong.' He said, 'I can't say I'm sorry enough.' He said, 'but wherever you are, I'll be with you.' And he said, 'I'll be waiting for you when you get to heaven."
At the dedication ceremony, Nickie feels that her husband is with her. However, she still needs comforting, she said each day without him by her side gets harder. "The more times pass by, he's not coming back," says Nickie.
Family members share their memories about Freddy Velez, a local soldier killed in combat.
The tree that now stands in front of Waters provides a wave of comfort for the family. "Inside of me, there's probably an entire bucket of tears. The honor is tremendous," said Roy.
Roy says when the leaves on the tree grow and blow in the wind, he'll hear children's laughter. He wants everyone to think of that laughter and know that his son died so that children halfway around the world can have the same freedom's children have in this country. That same sound also reminds him of Freddy as a child. "When they dedicated this tree, it meant so much because I can say one more time I can hear him laugh. And as I hear children laugh I can understand what his purpose was."
That purpose, said Roy, is that he died defending the future for children at Waters, as well as children who in lifetimes to come, will walk past his lasting memory in the front yard of the school.
The school asked the family if they could dedicate the tree just after they learned of Freddy's death. Roy chose to have the dedication during February because Freddy's brother, Andrew, who is also fighting in Iraq, could attend.