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Why We Serve: Paulette Joyce's Letter to Husband, LTC Frederick Joyce

Jun 29, 2016

Paulette Joyce’s husband, LTC Frederick Joyce, sadly passed away six years ago due to illness as a result of serving in Vietnam. With Father’s Day recently being celebrated this month, Paulette took the time to reflect in her own words on how she and her children, Megan and Sean keep Frederick’s loving presence alive.


Connections To Those We’ve Loved and Lost

Why do I feel the need to connect with those who have left my life? How does making connections enhance my life? What are some of the ways I can connect? These are often questions I struggle with every day, in trying to deal with the loss of my best friend, my husband.

Once Fred passed on, I desperately looked for signs that seem to speak to me as connections to him, even though he was not here physically and would never be here again. Those signs came in so many ways, some comforting and some bringing back painful memories. Hearing Bruce Springstein on the radio reminded me of his crazy singing of “Born in the USA.” Hearing an ambulance ride by reminded me of the many times they arrived at our doorstep. For my two children and I, it has been almost 6 years since LTC Frederick Joyce was taken from us as a result of his service so many years ago in Vietnam. The grief will never be gone from our lives but takes on a different level as the years pass. Connecting with my husband in some meaningful way is something I strive for every day and helps to ease the loneliness. I can’t fall asleep each night without saying “goodnight” to him out loud and telling him I still love him. I spend time at his grave on special occasions still trying to connect on what would have been our 25th wedding anniversary this past week. I find myself living my life and still doing those little everyday things he use to do like the “unique” routines from getting the mail, to making coffee each morning and taking the dog for a walk. Connecting to those routines helps keep me grounded and it makes him alive in my heart and in my mind.

My children also seem to be creating their own connections to their father. Megan, our oldest was in the height of the college process when her dad was so ill. She decided that getting away from New England would be the best answer to dealing with her dad’s death. She pursued her freshman year of college in Arizona but, by Christmas, she called in tears and wanted to return to New England. As it turned out, she would transfer to her dad’s alma mater, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and majored in History, the same major as her dad. Her graduation last year was a bitter-sweet reminder of her connection to her dad and his absence at her graduation was difficult.

As for my son, Sean had thought about going into the military like his dad but after consideration, he decided to “serve” in another way. He decided to become a police officer and serve troubled youth. His connection to his dad is shown in many ways; from Fred’s dog tags in his car mirror to doing “acts of kindness” for others, as did Fred.

This being Father’s Day this past weekend was a very difficult day for my children and I. Hearing those commercials blaring in your ears was a difficult reminder of not having a father to celebrate with. However, my children decided to create a new connection with their dad by starting a new tradition. Fred being from New England was a “Budweiser” beer man. Megan and Sean went to the grave and sat with their dad and toasted to him with a bottle of Bud. I went up to find one left unopened for Fred.

Fred having been in the military for over 37 years, I still have the military connection also. When he passed, he had retired but I still had the love and support of his fellow soldiers. He taught me persistence in dealing with difficult situations and this helped in making connections that would lead to helping my children pursue a college education. Through a friend, I was told to connect with The Children of Fallen Patriots Scholarship Foundation. This connection helped to me pay for college for both my children. This connection led to other military scholarships opportunities as I strive for a low debt college experience for my children. I often wonder if he is up their making all these connections happen. It just seems that sometimes there are too many coincidences that happen at the most opportune times.

Fallen Patriots reflects with Paulette on how important a father’s presence is to a family. Frederick’s passing is representative of the valor needed to continue ensuring our nation’s freedom. This is an important time for us to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice our soldiers and their families have made. This is #WhyWeServe.