Through John we remember

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I was in the fifth grade when the horrific events of 9/11 occurred.

I remember the shocked expressions of my classmates and family members as I gathered at school and at home to watch the replay of that day.

It used to be just a sad and surprising event that happened years ago until I grew up and realized how many families and friends are still affected by this day, not only on September 11 but every day.

Recently, I have been following a story first posted by Laotian American National Alliance, (LANA) that made me personalize what loved ones go through in times of war and loss.


Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) in the elite SEAL Team Six, John Douangdara was a part of the twenty-two dead soldiers, American troops Killed in Action that were brought back to the U.S. on August 10, 2011.

He was the lead dog handler for the elite SEAL Team Six and may be the first Laotian American to die as SEAL Team Six.

Sengchanh Douangdara shared with LANA how proud she was of her son and his accomplishments, “It’s natural we are sad, but I’m proud and happy that John gave his life to this country in doing what he enjoyed. He is a son of the Lao people, from a refugee family, but he was born and raised in America as a Lao-American.”

As I look at the picture of Sengchanh Douangdara holding the framed photograph of her son in her arms I realize how John was more than just a man who served for our country but someone’s son.

He was Sengchanh’s third child of five kids. He was not only a son to two people but to four someone’s brother.

Chan Follen, the eldest child, shared with ABC 12 Associated Press of her admiration for her younger brother “We are proud Johnny fought for the country that embraced our family and gave us the opportunity to reach for the American dream.”

It was this particular article and this story that made me understand how one event during war could kill one person but in turn affect a chain of loved ones.

Sirch Chanthyasack, CEO of LANA pointed me in the direction of John’s Memorial Facebook Page, to learn more of John’s story.

This past week I have emerged myself into this page, following the group and learning more I could about John. I became more affected by the stories of his fellow family members, friends and people who simply have been inspired by his story as well.

There are more than 2,000 people who have liked and visited his page to pay tribute to him.

It is the posts of his close friends and sister, Arlene that makes me see and hopefully everyone else who sees the page how real and heartbreaking it is to lose a loved one because of warfare.

On September 3, Arlene posted on the page: “there isnt a moment that goes by that i dont think about u brother i miss u so much!!!!!!!

His death occurred more than a month ago but people still return to the memorial page to swap stories and honor their friend, brother, cousin, fellow serviceman and hero.

On this 10th anniversary of 9/11 I will not only reflect on those who were taken that day but in honor of John Douangdara, I will honor their loved ones who still live on and live their lives for their late heroes.

–(Special thanks to the friends and family who posted and shared their pictures of John on the Facebook memorial page. )

About the Author

Majoring in journalism (print and online) and minoring in international relations at San Francisco State University. A&E reporter for SF State's Golden Gate Xpress.