June 21, 2018
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Mother recalls getting Mother’s Day message after son killed in Iraq

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — The mother of Staff Sgt. David Veverka, who was killed In Iraq seven years ago Monday while serving with the 172nd Mountain Infantry, said she got a Mother’s Day message from her son in the days after learning of his death.

“His body wasn’t back. I was numb. I was going through the mail one day and I saw his handwriting,” Carol Polley of Hermitage, Pa., recalled as she was given a Sunday evening tour of the Fallen Heroes conference room in the Brewer Armory. “It was my Mother’s Day card. It said, ‘Mom, I love you. You are the best. You are the greatest mom, Love Dave.”

The armory is home of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Infantry.

Polley arrived in Maine on Saturday so she could attend the anniversary gatherings to mark the day her son and Staff Sgt. Dale Kelly Jr., 48, of Richmond made the ultimate sacrifice.

“I can tell David is with me,” she said. “I cannot tell you how much this means to me.”

Army veteran Charles “Dusty” Fisher, a troop greeter who served five years in the Maine Legislature, said mothers of soldiers also pay when their sons or daughters put on a uniform.

“They’re the ones who bear the greatest burden of war,” he said during a tour of the armory.

Veverka, a 25-year-old wildlife ecology major at the University of Maine, and Kelly, a father, husband and 14-year veteran employee at Bath Iron Works, both died on May 6, 2006 from the blast of a roadside bomb that tore their vehicle apart and injured gunner Spc. Christopher Fraser, then 19, of Windsor.

Kelly was killed instantly in the blast and Veverka was mortally wounded but he somehow managed to unbuckle himself, get to Fraser, unsnap him from his post and pull him inside the truck to safety.

Veverka was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in May 2006. That same month during UMaine’s graduation ceremony, Veverka, a member of the Class of 2006, was awarded a posthumous bachelor of science degree in wildlife ecology.

A year later a memorial was unveiled at the University of Maine. The site is marked with a stone plaque, a tree and a bench that were placed in an area near Nutting Hall, where he once studied.

Polley, escorted by Maj. Darryl Lyon, who held the rank of captain and was commander of the Brewer unit in 2006, went to Augusta for a ceremony honoring Kelly early Monday and to a second ceremony at UMaine Monday afternoon for her son.

Polley and Catherine Kropp, a classmate and friend of Veverka, walked through Nutting Hall just before the Monday afternoon ceremony. Polley said that was hard because she could see her son everywhere.

“In his short life, he did much more than some people do in a full lifetime,” Kropp said at Monday’s gathering.

At UMaine, Veverka was president of the student chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology, vice president of The Wildlife Society’s student chapter, a National Science Foundation teaching fellow, and a recipient of a College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture undergraduate research grant.

“It’s hard to understand … but I still feel blessed [to have known him],” Kropp said.

Lyon gave Polley and Kroop the Sunday night tour of the Fallen Heroes conference room, which displays some of the history of the 172nd Mountain Infantry — the only infantry unit in the state.

Lyon, who is a member of the Maine Infantry Foundation, presented Polley with a small donation for the scholarship fund she has set up at her son’s high school in Jamestown, then he listened quietly as she told the story about how her son sent her two Mother’s Day gifts.

Shortly after getting the Mother’s Day card, a woman arrived at the door with a bouquet of flowers.

“My husband answered the door and I said, ‘Who are those from?’ He was quiet and just handed me the card. The card said, ‘I love you, Mom. You are the best. You are the greatest mom, Love Dave.’ He had sent me flowers for Mother’s Day.”

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