Posted at: 12/01/2013 2:16 AM
Updated at: 12/01/2013 3:59 PM
By: Steve Flamisch
MECHANICVILLE – U.S. Marine Lance Corporals Anthony Denier and Erik Jacobsen were "six feet away" from one another when an enemy combatant opened fire in Afghanistan on Dec. 2, 2012.
Denier, 26, of Mechanicville, was killed. Jacobsen returned fire, killing the combatant. In the months since that firefight, Jacobsen has forged a close friendship with Denier’s mother, Mary Morgan.
"I am part of the family now," Jacobsen told NewsChannel 13. "That’s one thing she said to me."
Jacobsen traveled from Long Island to American Legion Henry F. Lefko Post 1644 for a memorial service Saturday, marking the upcoming one-year anniversary of Denier’s death.
The tone of the service was more celebratory than somber – complete with balloons, a cake, and live music – but Morgan said it is still a difficult time.
"You don’t move on; you just carry on," Morgan said. "There’s a lot of support, but when I talk about it, it’s like it happened yesterday."
Morgan noted that thousands of U.S. service members are still in harm’s way, continuing the mission in which her son was killed. She urged Americans to remember them.
"They’re still out there in the field, where my son was," Morgan said. "Even (as) we’re having Christmas and Thanksgiving, they’re still there."
Denier’s sister, Maria Betts, said she and her family have "a new awareness" of sacrifices made by all men and women in uniform.
"I make a more conscious effort now to go and shake a veteran’s hand, and thank them for their service, even if I just happen to be seeing them in Price Chopper," Betts said.
For Jacobsen, whose military service recently ended, a new mission is well underway. He and the members of his squad are supporting Morgan.
"She lost a son… but she gained a squad," Jacobsen said. "She has a squad full of sons now… We will be there for her for the rest of her life."