With any luck, Lance Cpl. Abe Lasco is landing in Kuwait this weekend. He’s leaving Najaf and Fallujah and Ramadi behind, soaring away from the country that has been his home these past eight months. The place that has forever changed him.
He knows that his fiancee, his mom and the rest of his family in Gilbert will be there to welcome him home in just two weeks. What he doesn’t know is that the East Valley has wrapped its arms around him, too. Tribune readers responded to an Aug. 14 column as if they had been waiting for it. More than 100 e-mails, cards and letters have come for the 20-year-old Marine, not including the batch from Lynda Fredrickson’s third-grade class at Chandler’s CTA-Liberty Elementary School.
In addition to prayers, accolades, poignant poems, thank-yous and other well wishes, the Gilbert High graduate has been offered a year’s membership in the American Legion, invitations to dinner, a cold beer and an airport welcome.
"It’s just overwhelming," Janet Lasco said as she looked over the stack of cards, letters and e-mails for her son. "It’s very nice to know that people out there care. These are totally from their hearts."
E-mails came from all over the Valley, from Arkansas, Texas, California and elsewhere, many from battletested veterans letting Abe know that they’ve been there, and offering a sounding board upon his return.
They came from young men about to enlist and young mothers grateful to Abe and other soldiers for the simple pleasures of a Saturday morning.
They came from people who were solidly behind the decision to go to war, and people who weren’t.
They offered advice and old war stories, but mostly just gratitude for the young man’s service.
"You are our sons, our brothers, our community, our Americans — and that transcends politics. We look forward to reading about your safe return. May God Bless," wrote Renata Irving of Gilbert.
"I hope you realize what a positive impact you’ve had on so many. Even with just reading this article, I have gained even more respect for the wonderful, brave and special men and women serving our country," a Skyline High School student wrote. "I hope this letter brings a smile to your face and reminds you of how powerful one person can be!"
Janet Lasco has put everything into a binder that she will share with Abe eventually. She and his fiancee, Megan Mabon, are worried about throwing too much at him too soon, and they’ve been encouraged not to push him. To let him decide what to tell them and when. His 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment has been in the middle of Iraq’s bloodiest battles and Abe has seen death up close.
Megan has written dozens of thank-you notes already, and plans to keep the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of veterans who have offered to lend an ear. "I’m going to be calling them when I can’t figure him out," she said.
The couple will be married in Chandler in October, then move on to the base at Twentynine Palms, Calif., to begin their life together.
"There are people out there who love him and don’t even know him," Megan said. "I read some of these letters, and I just sit there and cry."
Janet is grateful, too, but she doesn’t want Abe to get all the attention. Hundreds of other young men and women from the East Valley are making similar sacrifices and also will need support upon their return.
"This is not just about Abe," Janet Lasco said. "This is about everybody who’s over there."
Janet and Megan know Abe has seen things that he will never tell them but that he will never forget. That’s true of many more sons and daughters, husbands and wives. That’s part of the sacrifice that military families make.
"Somebody’s son or daughter has to live with the nightmares. Somebody’s mom has to live with not knowing," Janet said.
"It’s bittersweet," she said. "Do I wish he never went through this? Yeah. But I’m so proud of him."