Dennis Zilinski

That year, 2004, Dennis said he wanted to be pinned (2d Lt. Bar) at the cemetery. Why there? his mother Marion asked. Why not Trophy Point, or the parade ground?
Because, he explained, “Dave Bernstein” was in the cemetery. So that’s where Dennis, his best friend Charlie Lewis and two other men on the swim team wanted to be pinned. The mother has never forgotten what her son told her: “He’s our brother, Mom. We’d never leave him alone.”

Four days after Christmas, standing on Bow Bridge in Central Park, Dennis proposed to Marie Cicerelle. She said yes – no hesitation. It was so romantic – until he said, “I’m hungry. Let’s get something to eat!”

They planned to marry at West Point after they returned from their tours in Iraq. The ceremony would be at the chapel where Marie’s parents were married (her father was Class of ’77), the reception at stately Thayer Hotel. They bought a house near Fort Campbell, Ky., and ordered wedding rings.

Marie deployed to Iraq in August 2005, Dennis the following month. Both were in the 101st Airborne, he in infantry, she in postal operations. They were stationed about 30 miles apart, but in north-central Iraq in 2005 it might as well have been 3,000. They never saw each other, or even talked. They e-mailed. His on Nov. 18 was to the point: “I love you.”

The next day Marie got an e-mail from her parents: Call home. For 30 minutes she stood in line, anxiously waiting for a phone. Her father explained that Dennis had been on patrol, and there’d been a roadside bomb: “He didn’t make it, kid. I’m sorry.”

In accordance with his wishes, Dennis came back to West Point, where the minister who would have married him would bury him. Before they closed the coffin, Marie took the plain gold band that was to have been the groom’s wedding ring and slipped it on his finger.
Next Graduation Day, another group of West Point swimmers came to the cemetery to be pinned, this time at Dennis’ grave.

From http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/story/2011-12-27/iraq-war-cost-west-point/52247758/1

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