Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Supporting Gold Star Families

One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something. Henry David Thoreau, poet, writer, philosopher

I have gotten so many interesting questions about my platform; why, who and "Are there REALLY that many Gold Star wives?" The answers are simply: Why not? I am an Army Wife with a deployable husband, I am an American and I am proud of our military... supporting their families when they no longer can is a given. Gold Star families are everywhere, come from everywhere and are comprised of husbands and wives with and without children. There are approximately 3500 Widow(er)s and even more children as a result of a parent being killed in combat or through suicide.

I am the product of 2 grandparents in WWII, a Grandfather in Korea and Unlces in Vietnam... Great Grandparents and before served as well. This was all history to me because I have not lived through those wars, I have heard the horror stories about the treatment of our military and military families post Vietnam. I remember 9/11 and thinking that this would be our generations World War people I knew started deploying. For years there was always someone I knew deployed, then in 2007 a classmate from High School, 1LT Jared Landaker was killed in Iraq – it was the closest reminder to me that dying for freedom was real and possible. The whole town turned out for his memorial, they held it in the High School gym and there still wasn’t room for everyone. I knew then that I wanted to help our military in a greater way. I knew people were killed in war but I felt like those closest to me were invincible. I searched Google trying to find an organization where I felt I could make a serious difference. When I found Got Your Back I knew I had found my new home because it spoke to me and I instantly contacted them and began volunteering behind the scenes. I was happy handling the family directory, emailing new families and asking for donations. Then the reality of it all hit; My husband got orders to Iraq. I spent the next year planning for GYBN, sending emails and more planning for upcoming events for families of our fallen.

I remember the first time I met any of our Gold Star families. I wasn’t sure how I was going to act, was I going to feel awkward or were they going to resent the fact that my husband wasn’t killed in Iraq/Afghanistan. By that time, Grant had been in Iraq for 6 months with another 6 to go. I showed up in Las Vegas for Project Gratitude, an initiative that takes Gold Star families to Miss America each year for a 4 day trip, and I was terrified. My apprehension was overwhelming as I walked into a room with 11 Gold Star families totaling 22 people, all staring at me. “Oh no!” was all I could think... then the introductions and the smiles. Within 2 minutes everyone was like old friends and we had a great time. One of my closest friendships was made on that trip with another Army Wife.

The last night in Las Vegas, after Miss America was crowned we went back to a suite for dinner. Sitting on the floor in a hotel room closet wearing an evening gown talking to a child about the loss of his father and how lonely he felt made me realize that I was exactly where I belong. I had found my home and the outlet for my passion. It’s amazing when you have that aha moment, that moment that everything becomes clear. Sitting there talking baseball, family and parents was my moment. Every time I see that little boy my heart soars because he is the reminder of it all.

Each year I spend more than 500 hours planning events , reaching out to Gold Star families and networking on behalf of these families and the Got Your Back Network. In addition to working a full time job and being a soccer mom this is occasionally overwhelming but, as with anything else, you figure it out. I mean we are SuperWoman, right?

My platform is part of my life, once a military spouse always a military spouse.

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