Book describes "Faces of Freedom"
Writers from across the country have crafted a book to honor the troops who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dickinson's Jon Fettig, 30, an Army National Guard specialist, was chosen as one of the 52 American soldiers, sailors, airm...
Writers from across the country have crafted a book to honor the troops who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dickinson's Jon Fettig, 30, an Army National Guard specialist, was chosen as one of the 52 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are featured in "Faces of Freedom." The newly released book profiles one fallen service member from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It was edited by Rebecca Pepin. Former Dickinson resident Jane Watrel of Alexandria, Va., wrote the tribute honoring Fettig.
Watrel is working as a reporter for NBC4 in Washington, D.C. When invited to participate in the project, she selected North Dakota. She met with Jon's parents, Larry and Shirley Fettig, in Dickinson to gather information for her essay.
"I participated in this project as a way of giving back and honoring the memory of Jon Fettig," she said.
"I think the project personalizes the war and it's used to raise money for causes near and dear to military families," said Watrel.
"I thought it was a great idea and it's a beautiful coffee table book," she added.
She described the fallen military troops as dedicated human beings who cared about their fellow men.
"They were ordinary people, yet extraordinary," she said.
As a Washington, D.C. reporter, she has experienced the funerals at Arlington and the flyovers on Memorial Day.
"I've felt the war acutely. You meet these guys injured in Washington," she said.
Watrel describes the book as touching every ethnic group and age group.
"It cuts across all lines. Looking at the photos moves me so much," she said.
All proceeds from sales of "Faces of Freedom" go to the Fisher House and the Wounded Warrior project, two organizations that aid wounded veterans and their families.
In reviewing the book, Gen. Colin Powell wrote, "The stories in 'Faces of Freedom' are true stories -- stories of service, sacrifice, pride and love. The stories will remind you that America has been blessed with greatness in every generation and no generation has shown greater valor than our current generation of heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read and be inspired."
The Fettigs described the book as awesome.
"After reading his story, they will know Jon," said Shirley.
Jon's sister, Tenille Ehrmantraut, added, "It (the book) brings out all the things we really feel about him. He was our main puzzle piece. He was our rock. Jon held us all together."
Jon is considered the first soldier from North Dakota to be killed in Iraq. He died when his unit was ambushed outside Ar Ramadi on July 22, 2003. He was with a convoy that was delivering supplies and dropping off soldiers to relieve others. Jon was an 11-year veteran of Dickinson's 164th Engineer Battalion and married his wife Cody in 1999.
The essay described Jon as having a knack for fixing things and a passion for computers. Readers learn about the all-night computer video games Jon and his brother, Craig, played with close buddies.
Jon joined the National Guard to help pay for college. He was working toward a degree in computer programming when he volunteered to go to Iraq to fill a vacancy in another unit, the 957th Engineer Company out of Bismarck.
The essay describes a talk between Larry and his son.
Larry said, "This is not a war game. This is live bullets. You may not return. Are you sure you are ready to do this?"
Jon replied, "I trained for this for 12 years. I want to go."
Shortly after his death, the Fettigs began the healing process with a trip to the National Military Survivor Seminar and the Good Grief Camp in Washington, D.C. This year, they returned to the seminar as mentors to families of newly fallen soldiers.
The program is sponsored by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS.) Its theme is "Remember the Love, Celebrate the Life, Share the Journey."
"This was our third year. It was awesome. It's a wonderful beginning for new people. We want to give what we got," said Shirley.
"One of the things we learned at TAPS, is you don't say suck it up and get over it. We didn't lose Jon. Jon died. The main focus is he's still in our hearts," said Larry.
The program has united families in bonds of friendship. The bonds currently include 18 families from North Dakota, who keep in contact with one another through letters and gatherings.
The cost of the book is $27.95 plus shipping and handling. The books are available through the Web site: www.rebeccapepin.com or through amazon.com
To contribute to the project, send e-mails to Pepin at email@example.com .