When Patsy Dietz took to the stage at the start of the Danny Dietz Memorial Day Classic, she read a heartfelt letter from the wife of Senior Chief SEAL Kyle Milliken, killed in Somalia a year ago this month.
Gathering with veterans, friends and family at the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Dietz finished her speech by focusing on the final line of the letter written to Dietz and the Navy SEAL Foundation, who provide ongoing support and assistance to the families of fallen veterans.
“I will never be able to repay the kindness to the American people to my family and my friends,” Dietz read.
Dietz said her reason for sharing the note from Milliken’s widow, was for people to understand the true meaning of Memorial Day.
“It’s about people who gave up their lives in the service of this country,” she said.
She then introduced the most “amazing, strong women who have been my rock in my darkest hours.” Joining her onstage were the Gold Star wives, the spouses of fallen SEALs, who were there for Patsy when she lost husband Danny Dietz, a Navy SEAL killed in 2005 during Operation Red Wings.
Dietz’s story was retold in the book and subsequent movie “Lone Survivor.” Since then, Dietz, a veteran herself, and the daughter of a veteran (her dad was a member of a SEAL team), has been actively involved with Navy SEAL Foundation.
“Everybody steps in to make sure the families could focus on grieving; basically take care of everything so they wouldn’t have to worry about anything else around them. We have grief counseling so wives can talk about the different stages of grief, and counseling for their kids, where they can interact with other SEALS and know that these guys are there for them, even though their father is gone.”
Houston Texans player J.J. Watt, who was presented with an Honorary Texan award at the Friday night event for his support, said “I may not be from here, but you sure make me feel like family.” Watt is originally from Wisconsin.
Having met Patsy Dietz and learning about the foundation during his rookie year with the Texans, Watt gratefully acknowledged the strength and courage of the families of the fallen heroes. Texas Ranger Joe W. Harrelson, who presented the award to Watt, said he was not only proud of the people who put the event together, “but also proud of the community who turn out for the event as well.”
“Part of what we are doing here is to bring back the meaning of Memorial Day. So many people forget that,” said Danny Quinlan, event organizer. With the help of director Erica Molina, both will continue to focus on ways to help fallen veterans and their families.
At the fairgrounds in Rosenberg, the Danny Dietz Memorial Day Classic continued throughout the weekend with concerts, cattle roping, barrel racing, a car show, silent auctions, a barbecue cookout, Cowboy Church with Trey Johnson, and an Honorary Texas ceremony featuring guest speaker Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL and Republican candidate for U.S. Congress for Texas’s 2nd congressional district.
“It really is a time to memorialize those who were lost, seek out those who have lost somebody, and tell them that you want to remember them,” Crenshaw said. “It means a lot to those who are still serving. And by those who are still serving, I mean the Gold Star families. Because they’re serving forever and ever. It never stops.”
For more information, visit www.dannydietzmemorial.com or www.navysealfoundation.org.