Keith Pannell: CNJ correspondent
Honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while defending the interests of the United States is something many do.
Helping their families during one of the toughest times of their lives is something else entirely.
One local spouse is helping a non-profit organization do exactly that, and she’s doing it because she knows exactly what they’re going through, which is why she’s firmly behind “Honor the Fallen.”
Lori Marquis, wife of Airman 1st Class Jared Marquis, lost her brother March 2002 to a Taliban bullet in Afghanistan.
Senior Airman Jason Cunningham left behind a wife and two children. But, he also left behind an older brother, sister and a mother and father.
“The military takes care of the immediate family, as they should,” Marquis said. “But, there’s also the brothers, sisters, moms and dads that aren’t really taken care of by the benefits.”
In Marquis’ case, the Air Force honored her brother with an cross ceremony in Albuquerque, and a burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
But Marquis and her family couldn’t afford the trip to the nation’s capitol.
Her father’s corporate employer stepped in and offered the company jet to fly the family to Washington, D.C., for the funeral.
“If it hadn’t been for the people my dad worked for, my mom, dad, brother and I would not have been able to attend Jason’s funeral,” Marquis said.
“That’s what ‘Honor the Fallen’ is trying to prevent. We want families to know there’s a place they can turn when they lose a loved one and they’re not listed as the beneficiary on an insurance policy,” she said.
“Honor the Fallen” was started by Dave Cruz, a former technical sergeant who lives in California.
Cruz contacted Marquis to offer his condolences. That phone call led to about two years worth of talks about the trials and tribulations the family was having with travel arrangements for memorials, getting information on Cunningham’s death and other facets of dealing with the death of a loved one.
“I had to have a way to honor the families of government employees who died in the war,” Cruz said.
He said a memorial quilt, made up of panels made by the families themselves will go on tour across the nation. The money generated will be used to support the “Honor the Fallen” organization.
“The immediate families have to pay out of pocket. Our foundation will provide grants for them to help meet those financial hardships.”
To get the process underway, the foundation is selling “Honor the Fallen” rubber bracelets.
The money from the one-size-fits all bracelets is actually seed money so the foundation can buy the materials for the quilts.
The quilt material is sent to families who design a quilt block in honor of their family member. Once the quilts are put together, they will go on tour.
Cruz said there are several quilts almost ready to go.
“It’s very emotional for me,” he said. “I can’t say I’m surprised by the response, but it is very emotional. The country needs something like this and this is a memorial we can get going almost immediately.”
For information or to purchase a bracelet, contact Marquis at: