Some Gave All (Day Fifty-Five)
Nicholas Dieruf was born in Kentucky on May 20, 1982. Nich was the son of Charles Diefur and Barbara Greer Dieruf and the youngest of four boys that include Charlie, Matt and Paul. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2000 and in the summer of 2003, Nich met his future wife, Emily before deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nich received orders that would re-deploy his unit to Iraq in February 2004. Before this second tour of combat duty, Nich Dieruf and Emily Duncan were married in January 2003.
On April 8, 2004, Marine Corporal Nich Dieruf was killed while conducting combat operations in the Anbar province in Iraq. Thousands came to pay respects to a local hero who gave his life so we can all live free.
We had the opporunity to visit Nich's resting place yesterday on Calvery Cemetery near downtown Lexington. Fittingly, we were off the bikes for a day as it was a moment to reflect on what our mission is all about and spend some time with a family of the fallen. Nich's father and mother were both present, as well his brother Matt. Emily's father and mother, Scott and Jenifer were both present as well as our incredible hosts, the Brown family - Damon, Carla, Clayton and Sheldon.
And Emily....that is the big news of the day. Now remarried, Emily Chambers gave birth to twin girls Ellie and Harper on August 1st. Everyone was showing eachother pictures and celebrating the birth of two healthy girls, the first for Emily. I want to thank Emily for supporting on mission. I first spoke to her in April, following a chance encounter Matt had with the Brown family at the Final Four in Houston. From the beginning, she has supported Team Jesse and we immediately began plans for this meeting in Lexington. I am sorry we didn't get to meet in person, but we spoke by phone and she is doing great. Emily - your entire family made this visit very special. We are lucky to have had this opportunity to learn about Nich and the sacrifice he made.
We spent about an hour at the cemetery. We learned more about about Nich from his family. Matt and I had an emotional conversation with Nich's brother Matt, who graciously shared memories of this little brother starting from when he was five. He described Nich as a laid back kid who loved his friends very much. "He was the glue that kept them all together" commented Matt. During summers, he liked to camp and build bonfired with his friends. According to Matt, Nich believed anything was possible and believed in others, sometimes more than they believed in themselves, and that gave people confidence. We heard stories of bravery, fitting for a Marine, who fought for our country and was awarded for valour during his first tour of duty in Iraq in 2003. As an older brother myself, I can't imagine how hard it would be to lose my "little bother". Matt was an incredible guy and his willingness to share his memories of Nich so openly effected me very much. Thank you Matt.
But the day was not over. We were treated to an evening at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home to the minor league Lexington Legends. Thankfully, we were in a suite, since 1900 gametime (aka 7:00 p.m.) temperature was 93 degrees. Before the game, Matt addressed the crowd over the PA system and introduced me and spoke a bit about our mission. I followed with a mention about local hero Nich, thanks to his family and a request for support. Then the big moment - the ceremonial first pitch! Matt and I both had a chance to throw out a first pitch. We were both a little nervous, but thanks to our pitching coach, 12 year old Sheldon Brown, we both managed to avoid ESPN (or more likely youtube!) coverage of bad first pitches. We were thrown a bit of curveball (no pun intended) when we learned we would be throwing from the rubber and not the front of the pitchers mound as our scouting report informed us. Neverthess, the catcher caught both pitches, on the fly, and Matt and I escaped with a warm reception from the crowd.
A final thought I had on the day was that I realized that although we were on a bike ride for the summer, the most lasting memories I will have, the lessons I will learn, will not involve a bike at all. Yesterday was one of those days for sure.
Rest in peace Nich - your family misses you very much.
To the limit,