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Tree Dedication, November 14, 2010

Adrianna G. Vargo

My name is Adrianna.  I am Todd’s eldest sister, and a William and Mary graduate from the class of 1996.  I would like to thank the Veterans Society of the College and everyone who made this event possible, and all of you, who continue to remember and honor Todd.


A few things happen to you when you are raised in a foreign service family as the four of us Weaver kids were.  Paramount is your early realization of the importance of your immediate family – no matter where you are in the world, they are your home. To cope with the challenges, your family must be strong and grounded.  Todd loved his family dearly.  He would be the first to say, correctly, that he had the best parents and the most incredible childhood.  He knew in his heart that his family would be able to weather any eventuality.  He would not have brought Emma into his life and into our family if he had not believed that she possessed the strength and grace to continue to embrace life, through this breathtaking loss, and provide Kiley with a wonderful and fulfilling childhood. 


Secondly, at an early age you begin to understand the vast and diverse nature of the world in which we live.  You bear witness to the effects of political, economic, and environmental tragedies.  And, you become extremely grateful for the privilege of being an American – where your rights and freedoms are protected - and you know that this protection comes with a price.   In Todd’s case, he took this responsibility in hand and spent his life gathering the skills and knowledge he would need to be an effective citizen, patriot, and warrior.  His time at William and Mary was no exception.  He studied government, joined ROTC, spent a semester abroad in Russia, graduated summa cum laude and was inducted into PBK. His tool belt was literally bulging.  At our sister’s winter wedding on my farm, Todd helped me gather greenery and make garlands - I joked that he would be able to add floral arranging to his list of skills - he only found this mildly amusing.


Lastly, as a foreign service kid, if you find a place where you can thrive and grow, a place that resonates with your value system and has a community that feels like family, then that place becomes an important anchor in your life.  William and Mary was such a place for Todd.  He found a home here and in turn he enriched the college through his presence.   Todd entered William and Mary having already experienced war, as a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  This shaped his experience at the College and focused his efforts.   I remember when he told me over the phone that he had joined ROTC. My response as the protective sister was “but you have already put in your time”.  He did not see it that way and was of course steadfast in his resolve.  He knew the importance of individual action for the common good, especially in the face of the very real threats to our nation’s security and prosperity.  It was not a matter of putting in the hours – it was his life’s work. This became more important when he started his own family.  He told me once that he would not consider himself a good father to Kiley if he did not actively work to secure her future.  To ensure that she would be able to live in a safe and free America.  To be able to experience the joys, as well as the heartaches, of being part of something greater than ourselves. Because it is only through heartache that we can truly be grateful for the gifts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


Before I share a few thoughts about the tree we chose to stand as a living monument, I would like to announce the creation of the 1LT Todd W. Weaver Memorial Award.  This will be an annual award for a William and Mary student who has demonstrated academic excellence and is majoring in Government or International Relations.  The award will help fund a study abroad experience - to help provide the global perspective and experience that was so crucial in shaping the person Todd became.  There is information, should you wish to contribute or help in the fundraising efforts.   We have an ambitious goal, but in order to ensure that Todd’s name will always be uttered on this campus, we must do so.


When we were approached about the idea of planting a memorial tree on campus, the American Beech came to mind immediately.  It is a native tree but is distinguished in being the only native species in it’s genus.  It is a long lived deciduous hardwood - reaching 130 ft with a lifespan of 300-400 years.  The wood from the beech tree is smooth and strong and was used as writing tablets in ancient times.  As a result it is often associated with scholarly endeavors.  What I love about the American Beech is the way in which the dried and golden leaves persist on the tree through the winter months, to be replaced only when the new spring growth emerges.  Anyone who has taken a winter walk through the woods has probably heard the whispering of beech trees as the wind rustles the leaves while all other trees are silent.  Whether you believe that this tree symbolizes Todd or even just the love, respect, and gratitude we feel for him, we are the leaves that steadfastly stay with him in remembrance, only to let go when a new generation has firmly taken hold.

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