#HonorThem: Marine Widow Talks Fallen Hero’s Life, Legacy

Destiny Flynn visits the grave of her husband, Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, with their daughter, 1-year-old Leilani, ahead of Memorial Day. Photo by Kevin O'Brien.

Destiny Flynn visits the grave of her husband, Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, with their daughter, 1-year-old Leilani, ahead of Memorial Day. Photo by Kevin O’Brien.

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Destiny Flynn is in Arlington, Virginia, this Memorial Day.  It’s a trip she’s made several times with her husband, Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, when he wasn’t deployed or in training.

Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn on one of his last deployments. Photo courtesy of Destiny Flynn.

Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn on one of his last deployments. Photo courtesy of Destiny Flynn.

This year, however, she headed to Arlington not with her husband, but instead to honor his legacy.

Liam, 34, who survived four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, died March 10 when the UH-60 Blackhawk he was in crashed in thick fog during a training exercise in Florida.  Six other Marines and four Louisiana National Guard members died with him.

Now, just two months after burying her husband at Arlington National Cemetery, Destiny headed there again from her home in Jacksonville, North Carolina, to help symbolize the importance of Memorial Day.

Liam’s story, Destiny said, could be summed up as living the American dream. The Irishman moved to the U.S. from the small town of Clane, Ireland, months after 9/11. There was just something he felt he needed to do.

“As a kid, he always thought about joining the military, so he ended up moving to New York City, where he was a construction worker,” Destiny said. “He wrote letters to the right people until he got the authorization to join the Marine Corps.”

Liam got his naturalization papers shortly thereafter.

Destiny & Liam Flynn pose for a family photo shortly after the birth of their daughter, Leilani. Photo courtesy of Destiny Flynn.

Destiny & Liam Flynn pose for a family photo shortly after the birth of their daughter, Leilani. Photo courtesy of Destiny Flynn.

“He always knew what he was destined to do. He just wanted to serve,” Destiny said. “Even though he loved his Irish heritage, he also loved this country.”

Destiny, a member of the Army National Guard, met Liam in 2012 in a Starbucks at Fort Benning when they were both attending airborne school. They married in 2013 and had a daughter, Leilani, about a year ago.

While those are happy memories, she’ll always also recall learning of her husband’s death.

“I got a phone call from my father telling me to turn the TV on. I just knew right then and there,” Destiny said. “When any kind of mission or training was done, my husband use to text or call me. I had looked at my phone and there was no text, no phone call. I called his phone and got no answer.”

Destiny Flynn leaves two Starbucks coffee cups at her husband's grave. They represent where the pair first met. Photo by Kevin O'Brien.

Destiny Flynn leaves two Starbucks coffee cups at her husband’s grave. They represent where the pair first met. Photo by Kevin O’Brien.

Liam was buried on March 31. Two days later, his family celebrated Leilani’s first birthday.

“It’s been hard,” Destiny said of the time that’s passed.

During Liam’s funeral, she said his impact on other people’s lives was evident.

“I was shocked at the amount of people who showed up,” she said, also remembering what she told mourners. “I said, ‘If you never met Liam Flynn, you really got cheated out of life, because he was that great.’ Never in my life have I met somebody so humble.”

Not long after his funeral, three of his special ops teammates were buried beside him.

Destiny said it’s important for her to celebrate Liam’s life during Arlington’s Memorial Day services this year and in the future. It’s equally as important for her daughter, Leilani, whose name means “heavenly flower” in Hawaiian.

Leilani Flynn plays by the grave of her father, Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, as her mother watches in the background. Photo by Kevin O'Brien

Leilani Flynn plays by the grave of her father, Marine Corps Special Operations Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn, as her mother watches in the background. Photo by Kevin O’Brien

“Even though my daughter doesn’t understand it yet, I think it’s important that she goes up there and knows who her father is — that she celebrates his life and pays respects,” she said. “[I want] to share stories with her, cherish the moment and teach her what it’s like to be an American and the sacrifices people make.”

Destiny said Interstate 95 was shut down for about 20 miles for Liam’s funeral procession. It was a symbolic gesture that meant a lot.

“He was just a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps with very humble beginnings,” she said. “I feel blessed that I met him and that he left me his legacy. I have a part of him [in Leilani].”

Liam’s decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals with Valor, the Bronze Star with Valor, the Combat Action Ribbon and the Purple Heart.

Whether you knew him or not, be sure to honor all fallen heroes this Memorial Day using the hashtag #HonorThem.

Follow the Department of Defense on Facebook and Twitter!

———-

Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

Check out these other posts:

Comments

comments

This entry was posted in DoD News, Memorial Day, Military Families, Rotator and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to #HonorThem: Marine Widow Talks Fallen Hero’s Life, Legacy

  1. Richard says:

    Thank you Ms. Lange for the rememberence of Liam Flynn and his incredible military family. May God bless Destiny Flynn and her daughter Leilani.

  2. StaryStaryNight says:

    Beautiful story about a true Marine Warrior and his little warrior family. It’s not hard too see why he fell in love with these two beautiful souls. May God be with them always. SSGT Flynn will always live in the hearts of these two precious ladies Semper Fi~

  3. Michael A Caporaletti says:

    Although I spent a little over 27 years in the military, I really never knew the genuine meaning of the word “hero.” With heavy heart, I know now that my valiant son-in-law is the explicit definition of “Hero.” Driving back to North Carolina the day after the funeral I tried to make sense of the unfortunate mishap. How was my daughter going to get through this horrific mess? Then it came to me through a message from Above. Although we may never understand why, the Good Lord thought it was time to bring Liam Anthony home (and He did). In his place though he left an Angel to watch over my daughter. That Angel just happens to be the precious thing the Good Lord has ever placed on this Earth — Leilani Marie! If you simply don’t believe in angels or miracles, I can assure you will change that perception immediately after meeting this beautiful gift from Above, Leilani Marie.

  4. Chip Holmes says:

    My heart goes out to you and your family. He was indeed, a “hero”. This world is a cruel place. We are all lucky to have had him go in harms way for the compassion of others. I lift up you and your family in prayer, something I did the moment I knew his Huey went down. Thank you for your inspiration. God bless, Chip Holmes