Local helps grieving family turn tragedy into triumph

POULSBO — Call it more of a reunion than a first introduction.

Walking through the halls of the Silverdale Red Lion this week, Poulsbo resident Emily Jensen scanned faces in the crowd for Debra Rosacker. The minuscule-statured woman was a bundle of energy wearing a smile that could melt an iceberg.

“Debra?” Jensen inquired.

A woman turned toward her, “Yes.”

“I’m Emily,” Jensen said throwing her arms around Rosacker. “It’s so good to finally meet you.”

Although until that moment the two women had never met, they have shared a bond the last two months in Rosacker’s son Randal. The 21-year-old Bremerton man was killed during a firefight in Iraq on March 23, becoming the first Kitsap County casualty of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The war didn’t really affect me until Randy’s death,” Jensen commented. “It got me thinking, ‘What can I do from here to do my part?’”

Jensen was born with Spinabifida, and was told all her life that she couldn’t give blood. In late March, the Poulsbo woman decided to visit the Puget Sound Blood Center in Silverdale and found out that she’d been misinformed. Two days after her first-ever blood donation, Jensen heard of Rosacker’s death and called the blood bank to have her donation marked in memory of the fallen Marine.

But it didn’t stop there.

Jensen decided to organize a blood drive in Rosacker’s honor. One Randal Rosacker memorial blood drive was held in Silverdale in March and the second will take place June 10 at Christ Memorial Church in Poulsbo.

“It’s just been overwhelming but I love every minute of it,” Jensen said of the past two months. “I went from organizing one blood drive for Randy, to two blood drives for Randy, to pretty much volunteering full time for the Puget Sound Blood Center.”

But before Jensen could hold a blood drive in honor of Rosacker, she had to get permission from his parents Rod and Debra Rosacker of Bremerton. Rod Rosacker just returned from an deployment aboard the USS Alabama and Jensen said he didn’t even hesitate to give her his blessing.

Jensen has been to the Rosackers’ home and seen cards and flowers and gifts that have arrived from all over the globe. Although she’d met Rod Rosacker, she’d only talked to Debra Rosacker on the phone before they met up at the recent Puget Sound Blood Center volunteer luncheon.

Debra Rosacker, who said she and her husband are hoping to come to the Poulsbo blood drive June 10, said Jensen’s effort touched her family in a way that’s hard to describe.

“I’m honored and (Randy) would have been pleased,” Debra Rosacker said. “We’ve had a lot of complete strangers do a lot of nice things for my son.”

Jensen said the thing that would make her happiest would be to see the Poulsbo community come together in overwhelming support of the June 10 blood drive. After all, she said Randal and his family deserve that much.

“I didn’t do this for recognition. I did it to honor the sacrifice that Randal made for our country. I’m always going to remember him.”

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