Gold Star Families Remembrance Week
Did you know that September 20 – 26th , 2020 has been designated as Gold Star Families Remembrance Week? It is a week to honor the families of fallen service members who were left behind after their hero paid the ultimate sacrifice. This week brings up so many big emotions and memories as I think back to that day and the many weeks, months and years that have followed.
On June 24, 2010, I vowed to do any and everything I could to honor Eddie’s sacrifice and keep his memory alive. Since that day, I have been consistently passionate about doing just that and sharing bits and pieces of my story while continuing to figure out how to live life. Although I have spoken at countless events, written many blogs and articles and shared my story with so many, there is a large part of it that I have left out. I’m not sure that it was purposeful but I can tell you that for me, the last 10 plus years have been full of confusion. After all, there is no textbook (at least that I have read) about how to live life after your husband is killed while fighting in war. There is certainly no roadmap showing how to navigate the nightmares and flashbacks from running into his hospital room expecting to see him recovering from surgery and he is no longer alive. Or how to survive a plane ride to the United States from Afghanistan after escorting and staring at his flag draped casket for hours on end. And there was certainly no podcast talking about how to greet and reintegrate with my children after returning from a deployment because Eddie was killed. Sure, I have touched on these things here and there but I haven’t spoken in detail about most of them because it’s not about me. Or is it? For so many years, I have put Eddie’s memory and legacy before myself because it was what seemed like the right thing to do. I have smiled through tears, awkwardly hugged strangers and told parts of my story because they all seemed like the right thing to do. The right thing for others, not necessarily for me.
Dare I say that this chapter in my life doesn’t and shouldn’t define who I am? I mean after all, it is a pretty major thing – I’m deployed, he’s deployed, kids are left behind with family, he gets killed, I bring him back and bury him, I continue serving and raising my children while teaching resilience to the Army…clearly it hasn’t been and isn’t that cut and dry, but my point is that for many, many years I felt like (and still sometimes do) that that period of my life is what many define me as. And to be honest, for many years I felt that way too: the wife of fallen Soldier SSG Edwardo Loredo. The thing is, that is true but I am so much more than that. When I say that out loud though, it feels selfish, as if I’m diminishing Eddie’s sacrifice. And that isn’t my intent at all. Eventually I began to figure it all out but for the most part it was on my own, because like I said, there is no book on how to do this thing.
After many years, I chose to remember myself, my needs and acknowledge that I still have a life that I have to live, while setting a positive example for my children. I also chose to open my heart to love again with the most amazing man. He is understanding, patient, kind and so very good to the kids and I. He supports me through all of my emotions, goals, good ideas and many bad days…and although this is the path I have chosen to take since Eddie died, it does not diminish his sacrifice, our experiences surrounding it or the days, weeks, months and years going forward without him.
You may be thinking, why now? Why are you sharing this part of your struggles after all these years? You are happy, thriving, remarried, helping others and doing so well. And those are all true. That being said, sometimes it all feels quite confusing. Other times it feels clear as crystal. What I do know, for sure, is that this week is a week to honor families like mine. But what exactly does that mean? What does it entail? How do you, the person reading this who doesn’t understand what it’s like to walk in my shoes, honor my family?
After some serious thought and reflection on the meaning of this week and what my role in it is, I decided to write this blog. How could I possibly expect you to appropriately honor me or my family after such a huge loss if I haven’t been completely honest on what it has done, and continues to do, to my family? Unless one has experienced this, there is no way they could fully understand. The impact reverberates year after year.
As much as I appreciate this week being designated as a time to support families like mine, I also believe it is my responsibility to share with you HOW you can support us. And that starts with being open and honest about both the highs and the lows we experience in our day to day lives. Even 10 years later, even after getting remarried and yes, even after having another child, the feeling of loss never goes away and I don’t expect it to, because there is no scenario that could prepare anyone for a sudden loss like that.
I remember how alone I felt after the dust settled…people stopped calling, reaching out, texting, checking in on significant days/holidays…the list goes on. Of course, I can’t speak for every Gold Star family but I can say that to us, those things mattered, and still do. Even though I still believe this part of my life doesn’t define me, that doesn’t mean that it gets erased after a certain amount of time or after a certain life event. Here are some ways that you might consider helping and honoring Gold Star Families. Make a phone call to check in. Send a text message to let them know you are thinking about them and ask how they are doing. If you are near, maybe spend some time together over coffee, or offer a kind gesture like a card. The value of a hug is underestimated; show affection if you can. Remember that Gold Star family members are spouses, parents, and children.
We are a Gold Star family. No two are alike. Each of us experiences the loss and the journey towards healing differently. It is complex, difficult and at times, exhausting. But even through the sorrow and difficulty, we remember and we honor our fallen loved ones. It is enduring and it is a part of our everyday lives. During Gold Star Families Remembrance Week, I invite and encourage you to reach out to Gold Star families and share support and love.