15 Sep 2014
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A Fallen JBLM Soldier's Memory Will Never Wash Away

Lakewood Patch's editor writes about how a small gesture of remembrance for the family of Staff Sgt. Alexander Povilaitis was one of the most poignant that he has ever seen.

A Fallen JBLM Soldier's Memory Will Never Wash Away

Sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words.

In one case, the picture is priceless.

On Friday, I received an e-mail from Elizabeth Blanchette, an Army widow.

“I was wondering if you may know the family for SSG Alexander Povilaitis?” she wrote.

Povilaitis was a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who died in Afghanistan within the last couple of months. That much I remembered immediately.

But to be honest, there have been so many stories of local soldiers who’ve died recently that it was difficult to remember the details of his. That’s how tough this year has been for our local soldiers on deployment.

After checking, Povilaitis and his story immediately registered. He was a decorated, 47-year-old staff sergeant with the 570th Sapper Company, 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade.

He died May 31 when an improvised explosion device, or IED, took out his vehicle.

Imagine the shock and heartbreak for any soldier’s family the moment the Army informs them of their loved one’s death. It’s on my mind every time I tell the story of a fallen JBLM soldier.

But I also think about how proud that family must be, how their loved one committed the ultimate sacrifice defending our country. Our fallen soldiers deserve to be remembered for their bravery and courage.

That’s why Blanchette’s e-mail, and more importantly the picture attached to it, stuck with me.

“Could you pass this picture on to them?” she asked regarding Povilaitis' family. “I have tried my best to look for them and I'm having no luck on trying to find them.”

“My friend Lisa Palmer puts the name of the fallen soldiers in the sand and does her best to find the families to send them this. She has had no luck on trying to find this family. Thank you so much if you are able to help.”

The picture itself is beautiful and poignant: a white sand beach that leads to blue ocean and beautiful island cliffs in the background.

In the sand, white and yellow flowers next to the words, “SSG Povilaitis.”

It's one of the most powerful images I've ever seen.

I wish every wife, mother, father, child, brother or sister of a fallen soldier could capture their loved one’s name in the sand. The names might wash away, but that image will always be there.

I wrote back saying that I couldn’t help directly. I don’t know Povilaitis’ family.

But what I do hope is that someone – whether it’s JBLM or a Patch user – who does know his family forwards this on.

What Palmer did is help pay respect to a great soldier, one of many from our area who’ve died doing their jobs.

Povilaitis' family deserves to see that – whether among his fellow soldiers or on a beach an ocean away – his memory will never wash away.

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