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Mother Honors Her Son Through Holiday Mail for Heroes

Kathy Kemezis
“I am just so glad that now I have a chance to truly honor Devin’s memory and to thank our men and women who bravely serve our country every day.”

After Kathy Kemezis lost her only son, Devin Galligan, due to a tragic brain tumor in 2003, she simply couldn’t bring herself to even think about sending out holiday cards to friends and family members each year in December. For years, she would buy and collect beautiful cards with snow covered farmhouse scenes and golden reindeer, but it just made her too sad to consider mailing them each year.

Devin had been diagnosed initially in 1996, shortly after he had been selected for Officer Candidate School with the United States Marine Corps. Although his health condition prevented him from initiating his military career, he was considered a brother and fellow Marine. He was honored by two Marines who visited him at his bedside in the hospital after his initial diagnosis. One of the Marines, Staff Sergeant Simpson, was so moved that he presented Devin and his family with his cover, the white hat that is traditionally worn with the dress blues uniform.

Devin served at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a volunteer counselor after having a carcinoma removed from his brain in December 1996. He lived for seven-and-a-half years after the surgery and even began training for triathlons and iron man contests. Devin was very well-respected in the community and even had the distinct honor of being selected as one of the carriers of the Olympic Torch as it came through the area during the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. But perhaps Devin’s most treasured accomplishment was beginning his charity, “Strain for the Brain”, which was founded to raise money for cancer patients at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Devin was also married to his wife, Kristi Gallagin, and a proud father to his two sons, Zac and Alex.

This year, ten years after the disease finally took Devin’s life, Kathy was touched by a TV movie she watched of someone sending a card to a solider during the holidays. She contacted her daughter to find out if there was a local program that facilitated sending cards to soldiers and she was sent a link to the website about the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Kathy felt this was finally her chance to honor her own son Devin and to help send a message of hope to soldiers serving our country. She contacted the Nashville Area Chapter of the American Red Cross to get more information about how she could participate in Holiday Mail for Heroes and also to see how she could get involved as a volunteer for the Service to Armed Forces program.

“My role in Devin’s life was to give him adventure,” Kathy said with a nostalgic smile recalling how they had lived and traveled all over the world when Devin was a child, as her husband and Devin’s stepfather had been a journalist. “I am just so glad that now I have a chance to truly honor Devin’s memory and to thank our men and women who bravely serve our country every day.”

In honor of Devin Galligan (1972 – 2003)