Thinking of Leif on this Veteran's Day, wishing he had been able to have the army career he hoped for instead of being medically retired as a disabled vet, proud of him for his service and his excellence as a machine gunner, proud of him for his devotion to the Constitution.
How little an obituary really says, summing up a life of hope, dreams, sadness, accomplishments, disappointments, love, work, family, friends, creativeness, defeat, with a formula of birth, family, work, death. Some papers will allow longer, but still inadequate, obituaries, for a price. Here is Leif's "standard" obituary, but I hope this blog will fill out, even in small snippets, more of the child, man, son, brother, uncle, comrade-in-arms, and passionate believer in the Constitution of the United States that he was. - Jerri ------------------------ Leif A. Garretson, 33, died April 9, 2008 at his home in Tampa, Florida of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Leif, known to many as "Alex," was born at Fort Riley, Kansas on January 28, 1975 and lived in Manhattan until 1976, when his family moved to several places around the world due to his father's military service, returning to Manhattan in 1992. He was a 1993 graduate of Manhattan High School and a 2003 graduate of Kansas State University. He was an avid member of the Society for Creative Anachronism in Manhattan, where he could often be seen in medieval armor on Sundays in the City Park.
Leif was a Medicare Customer Service Agent for Humana and a retired, disabled military veteran who served his country as an army machine gunner and certified armorer from January 1998 to May 2001, with a tour of peacekeeping duty in Bosnia.
He retired with the rank of Specialist 4 and received the NATO Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Expert Marksmanship Qualification Badge with Machine Gun Bar, Sharpshooter Marksmanship Qualification Badge with Pistol Bar, Marksman Marksmanship Qualification Badge with Rifle Bar, Marksman Marksmanship Badge with Grenade bar, and several brigade and unit awards.
He is survived by his parents, Peter W. and Geraldine (Jerri) Garretson of Sun City Center Florida (formerly of Manhattan, Kansas); his brother and sister-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Peter A. Garretson and his wife, Darlene, of Washington, DC; his maternal grandmother, Marion S. Kundiger of Sun City Center, Florida (also formerly of Manhattan, Kansas), eight first cousins, two nieces and one nephew.
On April 29, 2008, Leif was inurned with full military honors at the Bay Pines National Cemetery in Bay Pines, Florida, and later that afternoon a memorial service was performed at the Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg, Florida, with Rev. Manish Mithra officiating. Leif's family members and friends spoke in his memory.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any contributions in Leif's honor be made to organizations assisting disabled veterans and requests that you thank service members you see in uniform for their patriotism and service to our country.
A mother's quest for memory and understanding of his life and suicide.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my son, Leif Ashley Garretson, and to my quest to understand his life and death.
The photos on this blog were taken mostly by me or by Leif's father, Peter W. Garretson, but others were taken by my mother and sisters. I thank them for allowing me to use them here.
Leif or Alex?
Leif's given name was Leif Ashley Garretson. He was named Leif after the Norwegian Viking Leif Ericson, and Ashley after the famed anthropologist Ashley Montague.
The pronunciation of Leif was an issue with Leif. In America, people are taught to pronounce it like "leaf," but he didn't like that. In Germany, where we lived for three years during his childhood, it is pronounced "life," which is how we pronounced it until he was grown. In Scandinavian, it is pronounced "layf," and that was how he wanted it to be pronounced.
One amusing incident took place when he was serving in Bosnia and they had an activity with some Norwegian NATO troops. He took out his ID card, held it up (in front of his American soldier buddies) and asked the Norwegians how to pronounce his name. He was gratified when they said "Layf"!
A lot of people knew Leif as "Alex," and some of his friends, and his dad, still call him that. That nickname came about because when he was about seven and annoyed with people calling him "leaf" or "life" he wanted a nickname. We were moving from Japan to Hawaii, so he and his brother, Peter Anthony, thought that would be a good time to make the change because no one would know him by his real name at the new place.
They chose "Alex" because they enjoyed the show, "Family Ties," and the star was "Alex." Leif used that name from then until about 1998.
There were short periods when he tried out other nicknames, like "Ash" (from his middle name, Ashley), and "Crispy," which I think (but am not sure) came from his love of Crispy Treats. When he was a senior in high school, he contemplated legally changing his name to "Lance Alexander," but he never did it.
He started going back to Leif when he was in the army.