We went to our second Gold Star Family event. We met some nice people and made some good connections, but for me personally, there was more heartache than I could handle. I sent this letter off yesterday…
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Dear General XXXX,
I am a fairly new Gold Star mother. We spoke at the “Iowa Remembers” event in the parking lot, right after the balloon release. I am sending this letter to you because I am not sure who can help. Please pass it along to the people who might be able to use this information to make improvements.
I moved to Iowa the week before my only son, Jacob was KIA in Afghanistan on May 28, 2014. Having many adjustments to make, most importantly building a new and much needed support network, I attended the “Iowa Remembers” retreat this weekend to make new friends who understand my new struggles and my loss.
On Saturday, we were given our walk/run t-shirts and I was disappointed that my son was not included on the shirt. It was explained to me that these names are the names of Iowa’s fallen and my son is a Colorado’s fallen and that he will be honored there. I was assured he had not been forgotten and that at the end of the course on Sunday there would be flags and signs honoring each of the participants’ fallen family members and that Jacob would be included there. Sadly, we walked the row of flags twice and he was not included. He was forgotten. At that point, I simply left the event in tears.
Today is also my first Gold Star Mother’s day and the 4 month anniversary of Jake’s death. I had hoped that this Gold Star weekend would help me cope with these “firsts”. Instead it did the opposite, leaving me more broken-hearted than when I arrived. People always say that my son will never be forgotten and I feel as if his memory was forgotten and somehow not as important as the others who gave their lives for the same things Jacob made the ultimate sacrifice for. It might seem like a small thing, but seeing and hearing my son’s name, and seeing his face at these events keeps him alive for me in some way. It allows us to still participate in our children’s lives although they don’t continue here on this Earth.
Please consider these questions: What do Iowa parents do to be included in the celebrations of their fallen when their deceased child is a constituent of another state? I am told he will be celebrated there, but my assigned SOS and CAO are here and only have information about Iowa events. Even if I could find an event in Colorado that is honoring my son, what if I can’t afford to get there? How do I get that t-shirt? How do I see that flag honoring him?
If I did attend a Colorado’s fallen event, how does that benefit me in creating relationships and a support network here in Iowa? It seems to me that I must make a choice; to either attend in the state where my son is being honored or attend where I live to create a support network but be broken-hearted at the same time.
Would it be so difficult to list Iowa’s fallen on the shirt and in another place on the shirt, add the fallen of Iowans registered for the event? Sort of a list of honorary Iowan’s who made the ultimate sacrifice? I can’t imagine there would be more than a few. Isn’t there a way to include all of our fallen for the event so that no other participant experiences the grief I experienced this weekend?
In regards to the missing sign for Jacob, I understand that human error occurs. None of us are perfect, but forgetting even one fallen offers nothing but heartache for the survivors, especially brand new survivors like me who are still just trying to get through each moment of each day. I never want another Gold Star family member to feel that their hero was forgotten.
Please know that I am not angry, just sad. I hope this type of thing can be prevented in the future.
Heidi J Katzenbach
GSM of PFC Jacob H Wykstra
Now, the tender mercy that made my day a bit better: Our friend who is a colonel, called to ask permission for Jake to be honored in Dover, Delaware for a run to remember the fallen! I got to write a special note to you, Jake. That note will be written on a boot to line the side of the road and your picture will be on the boot! What a wonderful thing to be honored in Dover; the very place where you came back home to us.
Our fallen cannot ever be forgotten even for a minute. I love you, Jake and I honor you in my heart every single day.