At age 78, Janet Lewis reflects on 46 years without her husband
Janet's daughter will present her with a pin from Col. Lewis's Purple Heart
HENDERSON, NV (FOX5) -
Almost 46 years after a Henderson woman lost her husband in Vietnam, she still grieves like it happened yesterday. On this Memorial Day weekend, Janet Lewis will cherish her memories like so many others.
"It's basically what he wanted out of life. It's what he wanted to do," said Lewis, describing her late husband, Colonel Merrill Lewis, Jr.
At 78 years of age, she looks at photos to remind her of happier times - when the love of her life was an Air Force fighter pilot.
"Good father... darn good pilot," she said, fighting back tears from inside her room at Prestige Assisted Living Mira Loma in Henderson.
The couple met at a friend's wedding and it was love at first sight. Together, they had a son and a daughter, Tamara.
"She thinks about him a lot. She's never really gotten over what happened," said Tamara Kolstad, who was 10 when her 33-year-old dad served in the Vietnam War.
On July 20, 1966, Lewis was flying an F-105 when he was shot down 40 miles north of Hanoi.
Colonel Lewis was MIA until 1989. Janet and Tamara waited 33 years to receive his remains and have a proper funeral. And the years since have been no easier for a family torn apart, but at the same time bonded by war.
"It wasn't until after he returned that I really started to think about it, and how important he was and how important those men are to all of us," Kolstad said.
Colonel Lewis earned the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. On Monday, Tamara is giving her mother a pin - a piece of the Purple Heart. Lewis prefers not to keep the medal itself out of fear of losing it.
"So she can have that with her at all times," she said.
For this mother and daughter, Monday isn't just another day, a vacation or holiday.
"I'm thinking about all the servicemen and what they all suffered and sacrificed for us," said Kolstad.
And now a gift to keep the memory alive.
"It's very special, coming from her especially," Janet said.
Prestige Assisted Living Mira Loma will hold a ceremony Monday to honor several residents who are veterans or lost loved ones in foreign wars.
Copyright 2012 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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