Meet Tracy Della Vecchia, Founder of MarineParents.com
I am truly thankful for Tracy and her vision and inspiration for this website, because it really has been a Godsend to all of us, and truly a community of support and friendship.
—Carol, Marine Mom from Texas, September, 2004
Welcome to www.MarineParents.com, my labor of love and sharing online. My name is Tracy Della Vecchia and I'm a Marine Mom.
I started this web site because I couldn't find ONE place to find all the news I wanted to learn about the Marine Corps, about the recent deployment to Kuwait and Iraq, about the other Marine Moms and Marine Dads that had the same emotions I did. So this site was born on Tuesday, January 21, 2003. The response has been tremendous. There are thousands of other parents out there feeling the same emotions and we're all trying to define them. Connecting with each other helps. Sharing helps. This is a place to connect & share. Welcome.
I have an incredible son, a Marine for life, Corporal Derrick Jensen. He was a Radio Operator (RO) for 3/4, which stands for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, an infantry battalion with a base station in Twentynine Palms, California. He served with both India Company and Headquarters Company. Derrick was in bootcamp on Sept 11. My parents, Derrick's sister, and I went to his graduation the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The time leading up to his graduation were the longest weeks of my life, or so I thought at the time. He's wanted to be a Marine since he was 4 years old and has never considered doing anything else. I just never thought our country would be at war. I really didn't.
Derrick was deployed in January of 2003 to an area north of Kuwait City, called Camp Ripper, then moved on to Iraq and proudly fought with his Marine brothers into the city of Baghdad. His unit, 3/4 (3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, a/k/a the Thundering Third), was in the square on April 9, 2003 when the statue of Saddam fell. The 3/4 Marines lost men during the weeks to an accident and to enemy fire. They saw and did things that I prayed would never happen. I cried while I wrote this several months later. I missed him terribly and I wanted him home where he would be safe; but I couldn't protect him anymore. My letters to Derrick always closed with "Keep God with you. I'll see you when you get home."
The accident that Derrick was involved with during the war will affect him in a profound way for the rest of his life. I still cry when I think about it; I cry for LCpl. William W. White, for his wife, for his mom, for his younger brother, and I cry for Derrick too. Derrick gave William one last breath of life; I believe William used that time to pray for his wife and family. The Navy docs did everything they could. William was welcomed into God's loving arms on March 29, 2003. Derrick was given a blessed opportunity to meet William's wife during a memorial held in William's honor this summer. It was good for both of them, and Derrick was able to give her the photos he had taken of William.
During the peak of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the web site was getting over 12,000 visitors a day, most of whom stayed upwards of an hour at a time, devouring every bit of information. After the conflict when the embedded reporters left Iraq, Marine families lost the line of communication about the Marines. Contributions from parents, wives, and family members in the form of letters to home and phone calls home is all we had to stay informed. Developing and researching content for the web site helped me stay focused during the war, and nurtured my longing to do something, no matter how small, to support our Marines.
Derrick and the 3/4 Marines, his brothers for life, returned to American soil the latter part of May. I was there for the homecoming, with hundreds of other parents, wives and family, and I have never experienced anything as overwhelmingly joyous in my life. I'm still proud, I'm still afraid, I'm still sad, and I will always respect and admire my son's decision that he has chosen, as one of his many journeys in life, the path of protecting freedom.
With the media's scurry to get all their footage out on DVD and their photos in books, I have taken the opportunity to start a collection of books, tapes and videos for Derrick to have later in his life if he so chooses. That's his friend Clint on the cover of the National Geo DVD. That's Nancy's son Ian on the back of the book "The March Up" and in the memorial of the Diyala Bridge. That's Derrick, the big strong kid from Columbia MO in the Devil Dog Diaries. I met Mrs. Chin, the wife of the young man that draped the flag over Saddam's statue. That's Brian, Derrick's friend from Minnesota, in the photo praying with fellow Marines. And that's Pam's son, from Massachusetts, in the photo of several books. These are our sons, our husbands, our brothers, our fathers, our sisters, our mothers, that are part of this history and that will carry the details of Iraq with them for the rest of their lives. And we're the parents, spouses, children, family and friends of the Marines that came together through this web site, to stay connected and share. We're a family of love and support.
Derrick returned from his second trip to Iraq with his 3/4 brothers in July of 2004; he went back for a third trip to Iraq in January, 2005. I would never have thought that he would do three tours. The uncertainties and the emotional rollercoaster seemed un-ending at times. Time and again I would close my letters and correspondence to Derrick with "Keep God With You, and I'll see you when you get home." He came home each time. His 3/4 brothers went back for a fourth tour in the fall of 2006. I pray his brothers will keep God with them. Derrick is now working with me at MarineParents.com and I get to see him for eight hours a day, five days a week. I pray I never take that for granted.
The past four years have been a tumultuous time in my life. I am a different person today. I have opened new windows to my own self-introspection and ideologies. If someone had told me five years ago that the Marine Corps would become my life, I would never have believed it. I have learned that our Marine Corps families need help and support in many areas, and we are called upon to fill those needs, from PTSD and injuries to transitioning out of the Marine Corps and learing to live in the civilian world. I've learned that our Gold Star families need to stay with their Marine family and many have become my friends for life. I can't understand what it is to lose a son, but I can understand that being part of the Marine Corps never dies.
The web sites now get 12 million hits a week and we add new services and support and projects all the time. We have the Marine Parents Conference, Team Marine Parents™, Operation PAL™, The Care Package Project™, and the Devil Dog Chow™cookbook in addition to the support communities and message boards for every battalion in the Marine Corps for both Recruit Parents and Marine Parents. We'll be implementing a project soon to support the recruits in bootcamp as well.
Thousands of families live this journey with us, from bootcamp through combat, injury, illness, and even death. I have a long journey in front of me, and MarineParents.com is an integral part of that journey. I keep God with me; He is my guiding light and often times carries me when the day has been too long. Welcome to Marine Parents, and thank you for being part of this journey with me.
God Bless and Semper Fi,
Text on this page Copyright ©2003-2007 Tracy Della Vecchia