- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

The mother of a Western Maryland man killed in Iraq is trying to fulfill her son’s last wish by building memorials for service members who were killed, wounded or served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Debbie Higgins, of Thurmont, Md., said the last request of her son, Marine Lance Cpl. James W. Higgins Jr., was that the United States not wait 60 years to build a memorial, like after previous wars. Cpl. Higgins died four days later, on July 27, 2006.

“He had a goal in life — to be president,” Mrs. Higgins fondly recalled yesterday.

In February, Mrs. Higgins began a campaign to raise $17 million to create memorials near Thurmont and in the District.

“He felt very strongly about his country and serving in the military,” she said, according to the Frederick News-Post. “But he felt even stronger about [the military and country] being respected.”

Mrs. Higgins plans to build the first memorial to list Maryland service members and be built at Resthaven Memorial Gardens, halfway between Frederick and Thurmont.

Cpl. Higgins, 22, is buried there, about 35 yards from the U.S. flag.

Mrs. Higgins envisions a memorial of five walls, one for each military service, dedicated to those who died. A statue, saluting each wall, will be for those who were wounded and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She hopes the statue at the Marines’ wall will be sculpted to look like her son. She is less certain about plans for the national memorial in the District for all U.S. military service members in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s going to be a longer process,” Mrs. Higgins said. “I’ve got a lot more work to do. I am considering three sites.”

The next memorial fundraiser will be July 28, a year and a day after Cpl. Higgins died.

The event — called Poker Run — will involve participants forming a convoy in their vehicles to five restaurants, bars and grills where they will gather, socialize and attempt to draw a winning ticket worth $10,000 or a 2007 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The run begins at Belles’ Sports Bar and Grill, on East Patrick Street, in Frederick, and ends at Dogpatch Tavern, in Washington County. Participants donate $10 each.

Cpl. Higgins, who has a brother, Joseph, 21, and sister, Mindy, 19, always set goals early and “gave his all” for their accomplishment, Mrs. Higgins said.

He was 10 when he decided he wanted to be a pilot. By 16, he was qualified. At 17, he was a member of the Civil Air Patrol. After high school graduation, Cpl. Higgins applied to attend the Air Force Academy, in Colorado, then enrolled in Frederick Community College to study history.

He played four years of football at Catoctin High School and every position because the team often had only 16 players. His number, 77, was retired when he graduated in 2003.

After Cpl. Higgins’ death, his family donated $2,000 to the school football program. A memorial and flag were later moved on to the football field.

“He always complained that the flag was back in the trees and couldn’t be seen,” Mrs. Higgins said.

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