By Staff Sgt. Leah KilpatrickSeptember 29, 2015
FORT HOOD, Texas -Generally, mothers look forward to the day when they get to meet the little person that flipped somersaults inside them for nine months.
But they could never imagine a day when they would have to bury that same child.
That is the harsh reality of a special kind of mother in the military community - the Gold Star Mother.
"You always think you're going to go first," said Griselda Guerra, a Waco, Texas, native and Gold Star Mother who lost her son, Pvt. Gary Guerra Jr., in 2008 in a car accident. "Why does your kid have to go first? It doesn't seem right."
Guerra was one of almost 50 honored during the Gold Star Mother's Day event hosted by Survivor Outreach Services on post Sept. 26.
The Army observed Gold Star Mother's Day on Sept. 27 to "remember and honor fallen service members and acknowledge the enormous burden their mothers continue to carry as they mourn the loss of their child."
That burden became real for Guerra when "the Army came to the door," she said.
"He died on Father's Day that year," she explained. "We talked to him that night, my ex-husband and I. He said, 'Momma, I'll be seeing you soon. I love you, but let me talk to my dad, because it's Father's Day.'"
None of them could have known that would be the last conversation they would ever have.
Her 27-year-old son was a newlywed of only three months, and was looking forward to coming home to introduce his new wife to his family.
"The first time we met her was for the funeral," Guerra said.
Still missing her son, the grief-stricken mother said the only thing left is his memory.
"The thing I remember about him is his smile," she said, a slight smile spreading across her lips. "He was always happy, always helpful. He was always playing around. He was always scaring me anytime I was in the kitchen or wherever I was, he would come up from behind me and scare me, always joking around."
Events like the one at the SOS provide a venue for Gold Star Family members to come together, talk with one another, and share their feelings with others who know what a loss such as this truly means
When people come to see him for help to navigate through such extreme loss, Chaplain (Maj.) Anthony Taylor, chaplain for the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, first talks with them about the "five stages of grief" and asks them if they can identify where they are on their journey.
"The first thing I try to do is help people to get a framework of what grief is," he said. "People have different ideas about what grief is. Part of grief is not knowing where you are in the process."
Taylor said grief is a process and a journey without a destination.
"It's the most difficult thing," Guerra said. "You can never get used to losing a son or a daughter, because it feels empty all the time. It's like you have an empty spot in your heart, like there's a hole there all the time."
Most of them said the pain of loss is just as fresh today as it ever was.
"I never say time will heal all wounds," Taylor said. "Kind of, sort of, it'll heal, but the scar will still be there. You've still got a little callous there that you can't get rid of."
But finding a group of people like those at the SOS who can relate and share that pain can provide needed support and comfort through the journey.
"Attach yourself to ancillary support - support that wraps itself around you - that matches you," Taylor said. "If you like skydiving, have that group. If you like bowling, have that group; whatever works for you."
Therapy, support groups and counselors can help manage the grief, but Guerra found another way.
"I worked at the dining facility on Schofield Barracks, and that helped me," she said. "There were a lot of young Soldiers like my son. I talked to them, because their mothers weren't around. It was hard at first, but then it kind of helped me. It made me feel like I was helping somebody, as if I was talking to my own son, so I tried to give them advice."
Guerra said her faith also helps her through her grief.
"I think that's the only way you can get anywhere," she said. "I don't blame God, and I don't question him. He knows what's best, and he had a plan for him. I do get mad at him, but not so much anymore. But when it first happened, yes."
Above all else, Taylor advises those dealing with losing a loved one to stop trying to get better. Instead, he suggests that they become attuned to what's happening within themselves.
"Focus on becoming more aware of where you are, what's going on inside of you, what stage you're in," said Taylor. "And know that you're not alone."