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Family honors Marine's sacrifice

'We can always have his memories'

From Brian Cabell

Chelle Pokorney, widow of Marine 1st Lt. Fred Pokorney
Chelle Pokorney, widow of Marine 1st Lt. Fred Pokorney

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Home alone with a child to raise, the wife of a Marine killed in action in Iraq is struggling to get by without her husband. CNN's Brian Cabell reports (May 26)
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(CNN) -- This Memorial Day, a young widow and her 2-year-old daughter will visit Arlington National Cemetery and the grave of Marine 1st Lt. Fred Pokorney.

The three of them were building a life together before he was killed in an ambush in Nasiriya, Iraq, on March 23.

Now Chelle Pokorney has photographs, letters, memories -- and the knowledge, secure in her mind, that her husband's cause, to free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein's rule, has triumphed.

"I hope they can have hopefully have a democracy or whatever they're reaching for -- freedom from turmoil, and the pain and suffering they've been going through," she said just weeks after the lieutenant died.

Her husband made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Now, she is struggling to provide a future for their daughter, Taylor.

"I just hope I'm doing the right thing for his little girl," Pokorney said.

The house the couple bought together outside Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, has to be sold, because even with Social Security and military benefits, there's more money going out than coming in.

"I'm gonna get through this. It's never gonna be OK. It's never gonna be the same," she said. "My life's been taken from me, you know. Fred was our life, and we have to make a new life, but we can do it, and we can always have his memories."

Some of her most precious memories are the letters he wrote like this one, one of the last he addressed to his young daughter:

"Are you taking care of Mommy? How is she doing? I know you're doing your best to help her with everything. Please give her a big hug and kiss for me and tell her I love her, okay? I love you very much and miss you so much, my heart hurts. and I hope I get home to you and Mommy soon...and don't forget me. Love always, Daddy."

Fred and Chelle Pokorney pose for a formal picture.
Fred and Chelle Pokorney pose for a formal picture.

The wives of other Marines have tried to help console the young widow, but there are no easy answers. "Even when she calls me sometimes, I wish I had something to offer her to make a day go easier, to make a night go faster," Amy Williams said.

Nights are tough, Pokorney says. That's when the tears come, when Taylor's asleep.

The last two months have seemed like an eternity of grief and emptiness, and Pokorney yearns for what she used to have.

"His big arms around me," she said. "Just smelling him, just anything. You know it's the simple things that you're going to miss that are never going to be there again. And I'll always be looking over my shoulder to see if he's there."

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