Memorial Day: Veterans Gift of Life

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Memorial Day began as a way to honor those who died during the Civil War. Over time, it has grown into a day where we honor all American military veterans who have given their lives to serve the country.Marc

Cadet Marc Henning was a senior at the U.S. Air Force Academy, served as head manager of the Falcon football team, and was active in Engineers Without Borders. He was developing into a genuinely liked and respected leader. As Linda and Van Henning, Marc’s parents, and his brothers surrounded Marc’s bed the night before he died, they were unaware of the impact he would have on others just hours later. Marc’s organ and tissue donation helped save four lives and heal countless others, including his own mother. Linda became the recipient of Marc’s bone as a graft for a tooth implant. “Marc again became a part of me,” said Linda.

Linda’s Story
As Marc Henning’s parents Linda and Van Henning, and his brothers surrounded Marc’s hospital bed at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, they were unaware of the impact he would have on others just hours later.

Waiting for them patiently in the waiting room that night of September 15, 2010, was Heather Hamilton, a family support coordinator for Donor Alliance. She spoke to the family about the opportunity to donate Marc’s organs and tissues. It is the Hennings credit for Marc’s donation. The next day, when Marc died, Linda and Van felt peace knowing the lifesaving impact he would have on others.

During Marc’s U.S. Air Force Academy funeral, Linda spoke to Marc’s peers and commanders who packed the chapel. “As you know, Marc took his own life,” she said. “We were concerned that he was overloading his plate and needed to recharge his batteries. Although Marc’s life was short, for him, it was wide.”

Linda said that a trip her son took to Bolivia in 2009 was a turning point for him. While there, he helped villagers create a safe, functioning water system. Marc also spent a spring break helping build a home with Habitat for Humanity.

He was a loving and considerate son, a fun-loving brother to his twin Eric, and the biggest fan of his older brother Alex. He was a nephew, a grandson, a roommate, and a friend to many. Marc was a humanitarian, handsome, generous, honest, and good. And he saved numerous lives.

Marc’s lungs helped someone breathe easier in Arizona. His pancreas and left kidney strengthened the life of someone in Colorado. A person in Missouri is living healthier with Marc’s liver. His right kidney has freed a very grateful man in Virginia Beach from life on dialysis. His skin has helped burn victims and others in need of healing grafts. Marc’s bone has helped people with spinal injuries to walk again and without pain. And Linda also received one of her son’s gifts of life.

On July 22, 2011, ten months after Marc’s death, she became the recipient of Marc’s bone. Due to a special recovery that would enable the bone to be preserved and saved for an inevitable dental procedure, Linda’s oral surgeon, Dr. Steven Rodgers, and his staff in Newburgh, Indiana, coordinated the bone graft for a tooth implant. During the grafting process, Linda’s husband, Van, held her hand as tears streamed down their cheeks. “Marc again became a part of me.”

Linda says that not only will she keep Marc’s spirit alive in her heart; a piece of him will always live on within her. “Life really does go full circle, and the donation of life is what keeps this circle spinning.”

As we honor all American veterans who have given their lives to serve our country this Memorial Day, we also remember those who not only served our country but have given the gift of life by signing up as an organ, eye, and tissue donor.

You can register online today at donatelifecolorado.org for Colorado residents or donatelifewyoming.org for Wyoming residents.