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Jacob Leicht always liked that he was born on the Fourth of July. Who else gets a parade on their birthday? Some may not like sharing their special day with another holiday, but he embraced it.

On a day when America celebrates its independence and freedoms, it seemed like destiny that Leicht’s life would be dedicated in service to America. That ultimately, he’d give his life for his country on Memorial Day weekend.

If that wasn’t enough, that he’d be the 1,000th service member killed in Afghanistan theatre of war according to the Department of Defense. It’s certainly not a number anyone wants to report but rather serves as a marker to the sacrifice our service members, and their families, have made in fighting the War on Terror.

If the irony were not already thick enough in his life, Leicht was never supposed to return to combat after suffering a horrific injury in Iraq.

Doctors wanted to take his leg and told him he’d never return to combat. He faced dozens of surgeries and months of rehabilitation. However, the man born on Independence Day would not be denied. Where most might give up, he persevered. He fought to get back into the fight.

Jacob came into the world at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California to navy parents but was immediately adopted by the Leicht family. The Leichts boast a large family of six with both biological and adopted children.

They raised Jacob in church and homeschooled the kids. Everyone called him Jake, except for mom, Shirly, who preferred Jacob.

It’s no surprise that his mom found him a strong-willed child based on many actions later in life that revealed his relentless nature. She also found him an artistic child, yet, his greater characteristic was that of protector.

The Leichts fostered many children and Jacob became attached to these temporary siblings and often cried when they left. The manner and faith in how his parents loved others made a deep impact on Jacob as can be seen in this letter he wrote early in his Marine Corps service on the occasion of Mother’s Day.

“Now that I am older and on my own, I can look back with new eyes and see just how much love, time, and effort you put into making me the man I am today.

We may have not always seen eye-to-eye, and even now live different lifestyles, but you gave me that good solid foundation on which I live my life. You showed me God, taught me, and showed by example how a decent, Christian person should live.” 1

That determined young man actually had plans to become a naval officer after earning an ROTC scholarship to the University of Texas. His father had served as a medical officer in the navy.

After only a semester, some Marines convinced him that he epitomized the Marine Corps. Jacob agreed and left college for boot camp in 2006. Tall and lean, he graduated to serve as a mortarman in support of infantry.

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