This is Joe on his first tour and then afterwards when he met the kids who’d written to him during his time in Iraq. I wanted to share these photos since we don’t often think of the soldiers as being just a nice guy next door, but that’s what Joe was…
His stepfather, Philip Okonek, said Joe took his duties as a leader seriously — he truly was worried about the Marines serving under him. His mother echoed that sentiment.
“He didn’t call home very often this last tour,” she said. “He said it was because there were so many men under his care that were on (their) first tour of duty, he wanted to make sure they’d have the opportunity to call home. That’s just how he was.”
Piatt said Joe always sent messages through his father to her class in addition to writing whenever he could.
“He was a good kid, a good young man. He just wanted to do good for people,” she said. “I wish he knew how many people cared about him. He touched so many lives that he didn’t even know about.”