MEMORIAL DAY: Arleen James remembers her son Luke, killed in Iraq in 2004

Memorial Day is not just a holiday to leave the office, but a very important observance holiday for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This holiday hits home to many families of those individuals who lost their lives to protect ours. This holds significantly true for local woman, Arleen James of Hooker, who lost her son, Luke, eight and half years ago shortly after he was deployed overseas. Second Lieutenant Luke S. James graduated from Hooker High School in 1998 with honors. He was actively involved in FFA and 4-H programs throughout his youth and was in the ROTC program at Oklahoma State University on a full scholarship following his high school graduation. Becoming a soldier was something James wanted to do from the time he was a child. “He always wanted to play Army when he was little,” said Arleen. “He even dressed up in Army fatigues while he played.”While James understood the risks of dedicating himself to his country, he felt it was his patriotic duty to serve, and wanted the citizens of the country to experience freedom. “This isn’t what I would have chosen for him,” said Arleen, “but I am not at all disappointed in him. I’m very proud of him; and I miss him.”24 year-old Luke James was one of three soldiers killed while on patrol near Iskandariyah in an improvised explosive device attack on Jan. 27, 2004, only 12 days after being deployed overseas on Jan. 15, 2004. He was Second Lieutenant for the 505 Infantry Division in Fort Bragg, N.C. As Arleen recalled the night they got the phone call of their son’s death, she said that she and her family were in shock, but they knew that with the decision to be in the Army, there was the possibility that something could happen to their son. However, nobody can ever prepare for it happening to their loved one. Luke told his wife, Molly, before he left, that if anything were to happen to him, he would like to be buried in Arlington, Va. His mother said they desired to honor his wishes, so today Luke James rests in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, Site 8120.In a 2006 OSU graduation ceremony, former U.S. President George W. Bush took time to recognize Luke James and his sacrifice, as he was a former OSU graduate. “After earning his commission at OSU in 2002, Luke had the world at his feet; he had a wife and son that he adored. Yet Luke had chosen a life of service.” said Bush. “Luke James is part of a generation who are every bit as selfless and dedicated to liberty as any that has come before, and the future of the United States of America is better because of the character of young Americans like Luke James.”Luke was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star to follow the many other awards he had received during his service. Arleen said they had met other soldiers from James’ platoon. “These soldiers told us that because of his actions, their lives were spared,” said Arleen. This has helped ease her pain and give her a better understanding and strength in the thought of her son’s death. She also said that although she has always honored Memorial Day, it has a more patriotic meaning and she has a new perspective on the observance. “We should honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” she said, “and I don’t want others to forget him or his purpose in life.” James’ commitment to his country and our freedom proves that, in fact, his purpose has been fulfilled. So, while you may have Memorial Day off or get to spend time with family enjoying the day, just don’t forget to remember why this day is observed and those who made that sacrifice so you can enjoy the rights you have every day. There is a scholarship in Luke James’ memory for Hooker FFA and Texas County 4-H members each year. Arleen says they chose these two programs because they feel that these two organizations were very instrumental in the great leadership skills that her son possessed. A stretch of Highway 54 between Optima and Hooker is dedicated in memory of Second Lieutenant Luke S. James.