Rosemount soldier puts himself second again
Mark Weber, who has inoperable cancer, honors his wife during ceremony
Lt. Col. Mark Weber says he’s just living and people are following.
Many people have gotten behind the Rosemount resident who is battling Stage 4 inoperable gastrointestinal cancer since he was diagnosed in June 2010 when he knew his time left was precious.
His following grew a lot larger last Thursday when Weber and his wife, Kristin, were honored by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an End of Service Ceremony at the Rosemount National Guard.
“There are simply no words to describe his effort to come see me,” Weber said of Dempsey, who presented him with the Legion of Merit Award. “Such affirmation is the dream of any employee.”
In the past two weeks, Dempsey has presided over three retirements. Two of them for four-star generals each with nearly 40 years of experience, including the first woman of that rank and the chief of the U.S. Air Force.
And then there’s Weber, who said he’s got a job title no one’s ever heard of and just over 20 years of service.
“Notice any difference here?” Weber said after the ceremony.
Since Weber worked as public affairs officer for the Joint Chiefs, Dempsey was familiar with Weber’s work.
“I’ve been around Mark Weber a lot in some incredibly difficult circumstances,” Dempsey said during the ceremony, “and it was not only what he got done but how he got it done.”
He said Weber is one of the finest leaders he’s been around and always put himself second to that of the mission and others around him.
In true Weber fashion, he put himself second last Thursday.
“I will focus on one and only one person,” Weber said pausing during his remarks, “a woman who has stood with me every step of the way for the past 18 years, my wife and my closest friend, Kristin. She is my hero.”
Kristin received the Minnesota Superior Civilian Service Award during the ceremony.
“True strength is about getting things done despite tears and external obstacles,” Weber said, “and you, Kristin Coughlin, epitomize the definition of the word of strength. By the soldier’s standard for uncommon valor and bravery under mind-crushing conditions, you are a hero in every sense of the word.”
Weber said Kristin’s tears told him what his words meant to her that night.
“I saw a reverence in her eyes for me that was surpassed only by my own for her,” he said.
After the ceremony, Kristin told her husband that she’s only done what countless other military spouses in the Army have done.
Weber said it was all the better that the public could share in that perspective in such grand fashion.
“We are two fiercely independent spirits who have somehow managed to weather the storm of an Army career about two years short of the official finish line,” Weber said. “As we headed down the homestretch of that journey, life gave us and her in particular a whole new series of crises to tackle … – a husband with Stage 4 cancer and two young parents with cancer.”
The Webers have three sons – Matthew and twins Noah and Joshua.
Since his diagnosis, Weber has started Operation True Grit, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness in the fight against cancer.
Through his Facebook page, Weber offers messages of hope, determination and updates on his own condition, such as his latest procedure this week that afterward he said they are looking for a new line of attack when “no bridges were built today, but no harm seems to have been done either.”
“I used to hear flattery when people told me how much our story inspired them or moved them to action,” Weber said. “Now I see it as my responsibility, and to do so with respect, objectivity, and humility. It’s a wonderful feeling to see such goodness come from such misery, and why wouldn’t it be considering what I did in the Army? My mission as a leader is to instill purpose, motivation, and direction. Instead of doing that with Army personnel, equipment, and strategy, I’m doing it with my community.”
Since his diagnosis, Weber has spoke publicly about his cancer battle, including giving the Army Birthday address in June at the Minnesota History Center (see previous story).
After last Thursday’s ceremony, Weber said he received the typical congratulatory comments, but the most moving came from Sgt. 1st Class Arnold Lindgren, Weber’s first military instructor at Cretin-Derham Hall High School and who has terminal lung cancer.
“I have attended many retirement ceremonies in my career,” Lindgren said, “but this one topped them all. What a fitting finish to the end of my journey on this earth.”
Weber said he was honored to give him a healthy slice of such a wonderful gift.