As the mom of a new second lieutenant I’ve joined a few groups to help me learn about Army life and how I can support my son when he deploys. I’ve also learned there is one organization no military mother wants to join, the Gold Star Mothers. To be a member of this group your son or daughter has died while serving as an active duty military member.
This past week I went to our local funeral home to show my support for a new Gold Star family. First Lieutenant Jonathan Walsh died in Afghanistan when his vehicle hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). 1LT Walsh is from our home town. I did not know him, or his family before he died, but that does not matter. I stood along Mansell Road outside the funeral where his funeral service would be held and waited for the procession of law enforcement officers and Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) who escorted his body from Dobbins AFB. I was not alone. Several Blue Star mothers, mothers of active duty military sons and daughters also found their way to Roswell Funeral Home. We came to show our respect for Lt Walsh and our support for his family. Members of the media were there as well. I was impressed with the respect they showed to the people gathered there to honor the soldier. Their stories that aired later that day honored the soldier and his service.
After the service on Wednesday, members of the Patriot Guard Riders told me the ride to the funeral home took longer than usual since the procession went through the communities Lt Walsh had been part of, including Kennesaw State University. The evening news showed shots of scores of people lining the streets along the route the procession traveled. One fellow Citadel mom told me she was eating lunch at a BBQ place and everyone left the restaurant to pay their respects as the procession went by.
I joined the Patriot Guard Riders of Georgia last year after attending the funeral of a young soldier. You don’t have to ride a motorcycle to be a member. The members of the PGR impressed me with the respect they showed at the funeral and at the grave side service. Several members invited me to join then at lunch that day when we entered the same restaurant together.
This past Thursday I stood holding the flag of the U.S. Army as a member of the PGR at the funeral for 1LT Walsh. I began to learn about the various duties and traditions of the Patriot Guard Riders. Georgia Ride Captain, Nancy “Red K” Hitching presented me with my first Mission Accomplished pin. She had quite a few 100 and 200 Mission pins on her leather vest. Tom “Knobby” Walsh stood next to me on the flag line and told me how to hold the flag. All the members welcomed me into the group that day. The respect and honor given to the fallen soldier and his family was truly touching.
We stood by the door of the funeral home holding our flags in our left hand. As visitors arrived we stood at attention. A two star general and his staff who were there to honor the fallen soldier, took the time to walk down the flag line and shake the hand of each person there and say, “Thank you for your service.”
I am still learning about being an Army mom. The first lesson is to support your fellow military families. The second rule is to always carry tissues.
My prayers are with the family of 1LT Jonathan Walsh.