Before he left to train for a second tour of duty in Iraq, Marine Cpl. Joseph E. Stevenson III of Downers Grove wrote a letter to his family, in case he did not return.
Stevenson, 20, died in his sleep on Oct. 28 at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Stevenson was buried last week with full military honors. His parents, Barbara Ann and Joseph E. Stevenson Jr., have given the media permission to reprint their son's letter over the Veterans Day weekend.
Here is Joe's letter:
I've been trying to write this letter for a long time now, but as I am getting ready to leave I need to finish it. It's my best attempt at trying to comfort you if anything happens to me. I hope it helps if anything should happen to me.
First of all, I only ask a few things of you if something should happen. I want to be buried in a National Cemetery with a full military funeral, that is the only way I want to leave this life. Next, I want you to proudly fly an American flag and a Marine Corps flag so that everyone knows the price we've paid for the great country we have. And if anyone asks you why you fly them tell them not to remember me but the price our country has paid for its freedom. I want you to do whatever you find necessary with the money I left you. Make sure Lindsey's college is paid, and Dad get the foosball table I know you've wanted. And Mom I want you to enjoy it however you please.
The most important thing I ask of you is to remember me as the great young man you raised. In past attempts to write this letter I listed some great memories I enjoyed with you. I don't think that I need to do that. Just remember the great times we've had on the patio talking of those while enjoying a beer. That to me is some of the best times we've had and when I am away from home that is what I miss the most.
If something would happen to me I am not afraid for me but only the people I love so much back home. I know that this letter can't fix that, but I hope it helps you. I would never want my passing to cause fighting among the close knit family we've made over the years. I hope it brings you closer and helps you realize just how important family is.
Don't let my passing bring out hatred for the Corps or our Country. I hope it only strengthens your support for the war and the Men and Women who fight for our freedom.
Since I've been in I grew a new appreciation for our Country and Military. I know you have done this too. I can tell by the way you support me. I don't know too many parents who show this much support. With out all of your support I don't know if I could have made it this far.
As a family you have done so much for me and I could not ask for another Mom, Dad, or Sister that has done as much as you have for me.
I hope you never have to read this letter. If you do, realize that if I had a chance to do it all over again I would change nothing. I am ready to die if I need to, but I am not ready to leave you.
If I learned one thing in my life it is how important family is. No matter what you do or where you go your family will be behind you and still love you. You have done everything you can for me and what happens to me in Iraq is up to God. But if I have to die I will be watching over the family and loved ones who have given me so much in the past. I won't be leaving you though cause I know I will see you again in heaven.
I don't know how to end this letter but all I can leave you is the motto I have lived by since my time in the Corps. Semper Fidelis. Always faithful to God, Corps, and Country. And most importantly Family. Live the rest of your life to the fullest and don't mourn my death too long. Instead remember the memories we have, and know that I will see you again some day in heaven.
Your Loving Son