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Military Gold Star Wives meet to remember, mingle
BARSTOW • Seventeen-month-old Emma of Hesperia calls every Teddy bear she meets “Da-da,” says the girl’s mother, Lindsay Acosta.
The stuffed bear with her father’s picture in the middle, is called “Daddy-bear,” Acosta said.
That’s where the confusion comes in.
Acosta lost her husband three months after he suffered a C7 spinal cord fracture as an Army combat medic deployed in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan. His vehicle was at the end of a convoy and was hit by a roadside bomb. Emma was only 1 month old then and 4 months old when he died.
“It was overwhelming,” Acosta said. “Trying to adjust to being a single mom is probably the hardest part.”
Acosta and a group of 14 other women met at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Barstow on Friday for Gold Star Wives Day, a day which honors the families of military service members who died in duty. Some came from as far away as Norco.
The women were treated to a raffle of hotel stays, goodie bags, catered sandwiches and fruit. Fort Irwin Survivors Outreach Coordinator Lori Piccard organized the event in conjunction with Laura Herzog. Herzog is the founder of a nonprofit called “Honoring our Fallen.”
“If we don’t remember these families, then we’ve done no justice to our fallen, and shame on our society,” Piccard said. “Our benefits, our freedom and everything is connected to their sacrifice.”
According to Piccard, California has had more military casualties than any other state. As an outreach coordinator she said she works with 420 family members in 197 cities.
On Friday, the young children roaming the room, many under age 5, smiled and laughed, while some sat quietly as they ate. The stories of how wives and mothers lost their husbands varied.
Tanya Mobley, 23, said her husband committed suicide about a year after he returned from deployment to Iraq. She said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was depressed because he said people didn’t appreciate the military enough.
Mother of four, Megan Chappell, said her husband passed away after he was in a motorcycle accident on the 210 Freeway. He was an Army Reservist and on his way to work when it happened.
“It’s nice to know there are other people out there, but it brings up memories when you come to events like this,” Acosta said.
One woman, Lesly Garcia, said it took her two years after the death of her husband, Israel Garcia, before she was able to meet another military widow. She said she is now close friends with Herzog who helped her celebrate both of their birthdays this year.
It was the first year since her husband’s death five years ago that she was able to separate her birthday from his, she said. The two had birthdays only three days apart.
“I forced her to separate the birthdays. I told the waiter that the hero had passed away serving our country and that he could not be here with us,” Herzog said. “We celebrated his birthday as if he was there with us. We sang to him, we said his name.”
Garcia said she was tragically notified of her husband’s death in the Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan on the same day she was to fly to his base station in Italy. It was only two weeks before he was to return from his 15-month deployment. She said her bags were packed for a 7 p.m. flight, and the knock on the door to tell her of his death came at 7 a.m.
“It just felt so surreal. After him not coming back for so long and on the same day you leave,” Garcia said. “It felt like my life was a movie.”
The battle at Wanat is known as one of the bloodiest of the war in Afghanistan, she said. Nine American soldiers were killed and 27 wounded. Her husband was a soldier in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and received the Silver Star for his actions.
For more information on Survivor Outreach Services at Fort Irwin and the Barstow Military Outreach Center contact 760-256-1735.
Contact the writer: BSelf@DesertDispatch.com or 760-256-4123.