Storytelling concert helps keep veteran’s memory alive

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April 28, 2011

11:13 PM

Forget the “half-off” car sales and “buy one, get one free” mattress deals, because a more traditional celebration will be taking place in Williamsburg this Memorial Day weekend.

May 28, the Kimball Theatre will host a storytelling initiative to raise money for the 1st Lt. Todd W. Weaver Memorial Award at the College of William and Mary. First Lt. Todd Weaver ’08, died in combat in Sept. in Kandahar, Afghanistan when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Currently in the process of being established by his family, the scholarship fund will pay for one government major’s study abroad experience each year. The scholarship will be implemented within the next year.

As someone who showed passion for his country and his family in everything he did, Weaver was extremely affected by the events of Sept. 11, which inspired him to join the military.

“I’ll never forget the day Todd came home on [Sept. 11] during his senior year of high school, he knew that [going into the military] was what he wanted to do,” Todd Weaver’s mother Jeanne Weaver said. “That year it was so hard to get him to focus on college. Looking back on it, he was focused on [Sept. 11].”

After some encouragement from his parent, Weaver enrolled at James Madison University after high school, but then took a tour in Iraq. After returning home, he transferred to the College.

“He said that he wanted to go to the school that would give him the best possible education, and that school was William and Mary,” Todd Weaver’s father Don Weaver said.

While at the College, Weaver majored in government and international relations. He achieved very high grades and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Weaver had always wanted to travel but was unable to do so until his senior year due to his commitments to ROTC. During his lifetime he lived in five countries and traveled to 35.

During the fall semester of his senior year, Weaver studied abroad in Russia, when his life began to drastically change.

“He wanted to go to Russia because it wasn’t the easy way out,” Don Weaver said. “A lot of kids go to Spain or Italy, but Todd wanted to challenge himself. He was a man who was focused on the moment. He was going to grab life as it came to him, and shape it as he went along.”

The Weavers recall that their son’s study abroad experience shaped his life in numerous ways. It was there that he proposed to his wife, Emma.

Emma Weaver recalled that he had bought a tiny ring there for 1,000 rubles — the equivalent of $40. He proposed to her at a town on the Black Sea in Russia.

After his time in Russia, Weaver went back to Williamsburg to finish his degree at the College and to prepare for the active duty that awaited him. Within the first 10 days of May that year, he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, received a commission as an officer in the army, and married Emma.

“When you say ‘I do,’ you don’t say ‘I do’ to your husband, you say ‘I do’ to an army lifestyle,” Emma Weaver said. “Wherever Todd was going to go, I was going to go.”

Todd and Emma Weaver moved from Virginia to Georgia and then to Tennessee — where their daughter Kylie was born. Just a few months after she was born, Todd was deployed to Afghanistan.

“When he was going to Iraq, he had no one to worry about except himself; this time he didn’t want to leave Kylie,” Emma Weaver said.

While overseas, Todd kept in close touch with his family back home through Skype, e-mail and the occasional phone call. Emma recalled that Weaver would always ask her how Kylie, “the sweetie,” was.

“Todd’s first sergeant said that they must have watched Kylie’s first birthday video clip over 1,000 times,” Don Weaver said.

During his time in Afghanistan, Weaver maintained the connection with his family, yet continued to build a relationship with his fellow soldiers and to fight for his country.

Even after his return to the College, Weaver continued to leave a strong legacy of loyalty and determination and touched the lives of his friends and family.

Private donations as well as the Student Athletic Advisory Committee’s sales of the “One Tribe One Family” wristbands have gone to raise money for the scholarship. So far, over $30,000 has been raised, with $18,870 coming from the SAAC wristband sales. Over $50,000 needs to be raised in order to fund the scholarship.

The Williamsburg Story Telling Collaborative approached Weaver’s wife Emma with interest in using Todd’s story as the main focus for their Memorial Day concert, which is part of the “Stories that Make a Difference” concert series. The Collaborative will tell Weaver’s story along with that of other soldiers.

“He did what he did because he believed in William and Mary, his soldiers and his family,” Don Weaver said while addressing student athletes at their end of the year awards ceremony. “We are very proud of him and very proud that he went to William and Mary.”

The Story Telling Collaborative will be held at 7 p.m. May 27. Admission is free, but donations will be taken at the door. All proceeds from the event will go to help fund the memorial scholarship.

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