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Jessica Ellis was a medic in the 101st Airborne Division during the Iraq War. She was killed in northwest Baghdad on May 11, 2008.

Jessica Ellis was a medic in the 101st Airborne Division during the Iraq War. She was killed in northwest Baghdad on May 11, 2008.

Courtesy of Steve Ellis

Memorial Day is a holiday felt most acutely by Gold Star families across the country. They’re the relatives of men and women who have been killed in action.

Linda and Steve Ellis of Beavercreek, Oregon, are among those families. Their daughter Jessica joined the U.S. Army as a medic in the 101st Airborne Division during the Iraq War. She was killed 10 years ago during her second tour in Iraq.

Steve Ellis sat down with OPB “Weekend Edition” host John Notarianni to reflect on the grief of losing a daughter in war and the importance of remembering the sacrifices of American servicemen and women.

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He vividly remembers the night he learned of Jessica’s death. It was Mother’s Day, 2008.

“You turn the light on, and you open the door, and there’s two Class A Uniforms. There’s a chaplain and a non-commissioned officer,” he said. “They didn’t have to say a word, I knew why they were there.”

Ellis says meeting with the other members of Jessica’s unit once they returned home helped his family’s grieving process. As a medic, Jessica always said her main priority was to be out in the field to help protect her fellow soldiers.

“One time when she was home on leave in Baker, I brought up this issue of the war, the political side of the war,” he said. “She just pivoted right back to her buddies.”

An exhibit honoring Jessica Ellis in the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

An exhibit honoring Jessica Ellis in the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Courtesy of Steve Ellis

For Memorial Day, Ellis is going to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., to visit Jessica’s grave. He recognizes that Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the start of the summer season, but asks that people find a moment to reflect on the sacrifices others have made.

“People get together with family, go to picnics and ballgames and stuff. I think that’s good, that really is,” he said. “I would say to Americans, enjoy those things. But find some time, find a moment or so and in your own way, reflect on the cost of our freedoms.”

To listen to the entire conversation, use the audio player at the top of this story.

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