The funeral was beautiful. It was estimated that more than 900 people were there. Jake, you touched so many lives in your short time here. I don’t know a soul who didn’t appreciate you and so many who loved you so deeply. Many tears were shed and many laughs were heard. We wore bright colors to honor the artist in you and all active and retired military wore their uniforms. The lieutenant Governor met with us and gave us a folded Colorado flag from the state you loved so much and vowed to never leave. We sang, “My Country Tis of Thee”, A friend sang, “To Where You Are” and we finished with “God be with you til we meet again”. Your sister spoke and did so well. Your cousins gave tribute to you, as well as a general from the Army. He was so kind. Sadly, I could tell he had done this before. Your best friend talked about you and said this would be the most important speech of his life. You had so many friends but none like him. Your favorite Bishop spoke of your spiritual side and the love he had for you. Jake, I hope you know how much are loved. I’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t think you ever knew an enemy until you went to the other side of the world.
As we drove away from the church building, the patriot guard protected you on their motorcycles. It was so moving the way you were honored. I know you would humbly decline the title, but everyone knows you are a hero.
Because the cemetery is so far from the church building, it took 3 police departments and fire departments to help with the procession. At every intersection, fire and police officers saluted you as you passed. Civilians, stopped by the procession, got out of their cars and placed their hands over their hearts as you passed. There were strangers on the roadside waving American flags. Two fire engines extended their ladders from both sides of the road and hung a huge American flag over the center of the road for you to pass under. Jake, you were so loved and so honored. I know it would have seemed like too much in your eyes but it was so well-deserved. You fought with love in your heart for your country and those of us you loved, but also with compassion for those you were trying to liberate; those you didn’t even know but came to have sympathy for while in Afghanistan. Jake, you served for the right reasons and I know you died well in the eyes of God. You are a true hero and I know you are being blessed for the sacrifice you made.
At the cemetery, you were buried with full military honors. The roll call was difficult for me. When it was your turn, they said, “PFC Wykstra” and there was silence, they said, “PFC Jacob Wykstra” and again, no answer, and then a third time, “PFC Jacob Henry Wykstra” and upon no response the 21 gun salute responded. I wanted a response from you. I would have done anything to hear your voice.
Your grave was beautifully dedicated by your step-dad and you were speedily and efficiently buried. We were able to drop roses in for you and your cousin, Dustin removed his blue infantry cord from his uniform and dropped it in with you, followed by Richard Chae and Josh. It was moving. I chose the angel Moroni for your religious symbol on your tombstone, and it reads, “Well done my good and faithful servant”. I know you heard these words from the Savior. I know you have spent time in his arms and have been taught by Him. I believe you now know so much more than me, and as you know this drives me crazy because I can’t wait to know everything!
The death date on your tombstone is lightly stamped with May 28, because the accident happened at 11:45 PM on that day. You likely died before midnight, but nobody in the field was authorized to call your time of death, it will likely be changed to the 29th. The investigation continues and we will only know then. Until then, your medals and paperwork have either date. I use the 29th because that was when your time of death was called and will likely be determined to be the official date.
You have been laid to rest. I immediately returned to Iowa and feel sad that I cannot visit your grave. I want to go and sit with you. I feel so far from you physically, but I feel your spirit near me constantly. Will I ever stop expecting you to come in the door? Will I ever go to bed without thinking, “Should we lock the door or is Jake coming in tonight”? I loved it when you would open my bedroom door to tell me you were home and call Molly to come sleep with you. There were those nights when I was still awake and you would come in and tell me about your night. I miss my one-on-one time with you, talking about your future and telling me about the things you wanted to accomplish in this life. I guess you finished all you needed to accomplish. You must be needed elsewhere for something extremely important because I know how much we need you here. You will always be the sunshine in my life, even in memory. That’s how much you shine on. I love you with my whole heart, my son. That is why it hurts so deeply