What’s in a Name

Last night, while Xander was sitting on the couch with me, he asked, “how do you spell my middle name?”


“I…s…s…wait, spell it again.”


This morning on the way to school he asked again. “Mom, spell my middle name again, I forgot.”


“I-s-s-h-a-k. Ok. I remember now–that’s not how my friend Issac spells his name.”

I guess there is no time like the present to try and explain this one.

Your name is special. Dad had an awesome friend, and that was his name.

“He had a friend named Isshak? But they aren’t friends anymore?”

Ok, how do you explain this to a 7-year-old…

Daniel Isshak, KIA 3Oct2006

I met Daniel Isshak in December, 2004, on my first visit to Fort Benning, to see Justin. We had talked on the phone about a million times before that (I had talked on the phone to all of Justin’s friends–when you spend 2 hours a day talking on the phone with someone, you end up talking to a lot of random people along the way. Justin had picked me up at the airport and brought me to stay with a couple of his friends–Dan lived there, and was smoking outside when we showed up. I whined, “it’s Georgia! I thought it was supposed to be warm here.” Isshak laughed. His laugh was enough to make anyone and everyone around him laugh.

Over lots of other visits down to see Justin, I got to spend more time with Danny Isshak. There was a morning when Justin left for PT (and I was staying in the barracks–shh). A little while later, I heard the door open, and I watched a man who looked very  much like Justin (it was dark; I didn’t have my glasses on), came in, crawled into the bed on the other side of the room, and went to sleep. I laid there thinking, “why in the world would Justin not be crawling into his own bed with me?” But it was too early for my 22 year old butt to give it much thought, so I went back to sleep. A while later, the man I thought was Justin got back out of bed, and on his way out the door said, “I drank all of the orange juice–don’t tell them it was me.” It was Isshak.

At the first Ranger Ball I went to, Dan was there, being goofy and silly as usual. At that point, a bunch of Justin’s buddies were getting ready to PCS to Hawaii. He talked a lot about getting a new car as soon as he got there.

By the time I moved down to Georgia, in October of 2005, they had all PCSed and were living it up in Hawaii. I would ask Justin if he was bummed he didn’t also go. They all still talked on the phone quite a bit, and honestly, there’s always the hope that someday the Army will bring you back together.

Of course, then on October 5th, 2006, Justin called me while I was at work. Isshak had been shot in Iraq. He died.

How could this be!? It’s not possible. There must be some mistake. He was so young! It’s not possible. It’s not fair.

Daniel Isshak was the first person I knew personally, who died in war. Thankfully (knock on wood), he is also the only one. When we were deciding on names, it had already been determined that our firstborn would be named Shea (after another soldier, one I didn’t know, but who Justin had). Two years later, when we found out we were having a boy, we struggled to decide on a name. There were already a handful of Daniels in Justin’s family, and could we name our son Isshak, pronounced like Issac? A lifetime of people mispronouncing it: “Ish-ack?” It was quickly decided that Isshak worked better as a middle name.

So, my child, your namesake was a character, much like you are. He was ridiculous, and funny, and a troublemaker. Much like you are. Your name is special.

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