When she was little, Theresa Hart would look at a photo of her great uncle that hung on her grandpa’s wall. She never knew him, but saw the toll of his absence on her grandfather. She never knew how, day after day, he dealt with the pain of losing his child to war.
Now, she knows that pain. At the city of Hayden Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony, the mother of Spc. Nicholas Newby, who died in Iraq in 2011, shared her story of what Memorial Day means to her.
The city of Hayden Veterans Commission, which has put on this event for the past eight years, has been trying to get Hart to speak for a few years now. Finally, to a crowd of more than 300 people sitting in the parking lot of Hayden City Hall, Hart poured her heart out.
“To most, Memorial Day is the artificial start to summer. It means camping, barbecues and hot dogs,” she said. “Today is a day to come together in unity. For me, every day is Memorial Day — every day I remember.”
Hart was not alone when she spoke about the pain of the loss of her son. She named other families in the crowd who had lost someone to war. When she named them, they stood up. They stood together in unity.
“Every day I remember Ethan, when I speak to his father, Harv. Every day I remember Wyatt when I speak to his mother and father, Lorie and John,” she said. “Every day I remember Matthew when I see his parents, John and Stacey. Every day I remember Tyler, who was a friend of Nick’s, when I look into the eyes of his sister, his brother, his mother and his father… Kayla, Randy, Sherri and T.J.”
By the end of her speech, half the crowd was in tears and the rest were left completely silent.
“I no longer wonder how my grandfather lived in pain, and now I know. He did it, and we do it, so our children are as proud of us as we are of them,” Hart concluded. “We need to live our lives worthy of their sacrifice.”
With a standing ovation, Hart sat back down in her seat, knowing she had the support of everyone there.
Throughout the ceremony, David Sheldon, vice-chair of the Hayden Veterans Commission, led the crowd in a variety of songs including the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.” He said the commission tries to make each year’s ceremony more memorable than the last one. He was excited when Hart finally agreed to give a speech this year.
“We’ve been after her for two years now, I knew it had to be when she was ready,” he said of Hart. “She knocked it out of the park.”
Hayden Mayor Steve Griffitts was impressed and thankful for Hart’s contribution to the ceremony as well.
“I am grateful for her courage and kindness in speaking for us today and recognizing other families who have also lost loved ones,” he said.
Theresa Hart, mother of fallen hero Spc. Nicholas Newby and founder of Newby-ginnings, speaks to a crowd during a Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony held in Hayden.