By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - For the family of Army Pfc. Marlin T. Rockhold, Memorial Day always meant cookouts, parades and festivities with family and friends.Not this year.
For the family of the 23-year-old Hamilton native, this Memorial Day is poignant and personal.
A sniper's bullet rocked their world on May 8. As Rockhold directed traffic on a bridge in Baghdad, he was shot in the back of the head. He is the only Tristate soldier killed in Iraq.
"I've observed Memorial Days in the past," said the soldier's uncle, Lew Henderson, of Hamilton. "But because of Marlin's death and the way it happened, this one will have more meaning for me. For the first time in my life, I truly understand the significance of Memorial Day."
Henderson and his mother - Rockhold's grandmother - Eileen Henderson will visit the young soldier's grave at Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton today.
Rockhold was buried after a May 17 church funeral service attended by scores of relatives, friends and well-wishers ( May 18 story ).
Rockhold's wife, DaVonna, returned this weekend to Fort Stewart, Ga., where her husband was based. On Monday, she will attend a special Memorial Day ceremony honoring Rockhold at the military base.
"It's going to be very difficult," she said, before leaving Greater Cincinnati. "Memorial Day is close to my birthday. So it's going to be a bad day."
Some of Rockhold's relatives will uphold a family tradition Monday by placing flowers at the graves of family members and gathering at someone's house in Hamilton for a barbeque.
Rockhold's 19-year-old brother, Derrick, of Forest Park, gave an eloquent eulogy for his brother at the funeral. He said he has come to terms with Marlin's death.
"This was part of God's plan," he said. "Our life is like a vapor. It's here one moment and gone the next. But the memories of Marlin will always be there."
For Rockhold's father and stepmother, Gary and Joan Rockhold of Hamilton, Memorial Day will be a time to contemplate the sacrifice Marlin made for his country and the special place he holds in their hearts.
"I always thought of Memorial Day as a day for picnics and parades," his stepmother said. "But this one will be to memorialize Marlin. I have more respect for Memorial Days now."
"He didn't get to do all the things he wanted to do," she added. "Those are the things that hurt so bad."
DaVonna Rockhold hasn't had a chance to think a lot about her plans for the future. All she knows now is that she and her 8-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Therashia, will remain in Georgia.
She said her husband had a close relationship with Therashia and planned to adopt her when he returned from Iraq, so she plans to change her daughter's surname to Rockhold in honor of her stepfather.
For a man described by many as cheerful and loving, that may be Marlin T. Rockhold's most fitting memorial.
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