By Heather Graham-Ashley, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsJune 7, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas -- In her native German, she called him “My Schatz,” even having it etched into the silver bracelet she wears in memory. In English, the phrase means treasure.
Beate Medina marked her eighth Memorial Day without her "treasure" by visiting Fort Hood, Texas, the place where she feels closest to him.
Staff Sgt. Oscar Medina, a mechanic assigned to 84th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, was killed May 1, 2004, in Al Amarah, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his convoy.
Beate, like many other Gold Star families and others who have lost Soldiers, visited Fort Hood to remember and honor her husband’s sacrifice.
Although Oscar was assigned to a unit based in Hawaii when he died, Beate feels a deeper connection to Oscar’s former unit, the 1st Cavalry Division.
“I remember sewing on those large patches for him,” she said. “When he was in the 1st Cavalry, he was proud.”
May 30 found Beate sitting under a large oak tree next to the 1st Cav. Memorial, a place where she spends a fair amount of time.
“It’s a place where I can sit down on one of the benches and look between (the marble walls) and see the Soldier’s cross,” she said. “It makes me feel closer to him.”
They met in 1998 in Bamberg, Germany, a town that was considered “a hangout for Soldiers,” she said.
Beate wanted to brush up on her English to get a teaching job. Oscar started talking to her.
“I didn’t want to get involved,” she said, but Oscar won her over.
It came time for Oscar to return to the U.S. in 1999, and Beate had a decision to make. She took a chance and came back with Oscar, but her stay was short lived.
When he deployed to Kosovo in June, she returned to Germany.
“I couldn’t just sit around,” she said.
When Oscar returned from deployment, Beate joined him at Fort Hood. The couple married March 8, 2000, in Belton, Texas, and moved to Hawaii in 2001.
“It was beautiful, but very expensive,” Beate said.
Oscar deployed to Iraq in January 2004.
Today, Oscar’s photo hangs on the back wall of the Fort Hood Survivor Outreach Services Center’s Hall of Remembrance.
Beate stopped by SOS on Memorial Day to see the photo and be around others who have felt the loss of a Soldier. The center hosted a come-and-go reception for families and offered flags that could be placed on the photos in the Hall of Remembrance.
“Today was important for me to go and remember,” she said. “I want to read all the names on the walls as a way to remember.”
Surrounded by the sea of stoic faces of service members in uniform, Oscar’s photo stands out as the 8”x10” shows a burly man in a desert combat uniform kneeling beside two puppies he adopted in Iraq.
“That was Oscar,” Beate said. “He loved dogs.”
In fact, Oscar had told her the two mutts would be coming home in his duffel bag.
It was the last photo Oscar emailed her and her favorite snapshot of him.
The photo was the one displayed at Oscar’s funeral and it was difficult for Beate to part with it to hang in the center.
As the anniversary of Oscar’s death approached, Beate had a decision to make.
She could either go back to Germany or continue the life she and Oscar had started in the U.S., alone.
“Going back (to Germany) would have left both feet dangling,” she said.
Here, she had a job and had filed paperwork to get citizenship. She wanted to stay close, preferably in Hawaii. But, Hawaii was expensive, so Beate came back to the only other place in America that had been home.
“I thought, ‘I know Fort Hood; I’d have the post there,’” she said.
Beate has built her life here.
“I come on post as a way to remember him,” she said.
Beate stays in touch with several of the Tropic Lightning Soldiers who served with Oscar.
“They’re family,” she said.
She knows they also grieve and miss the fallen. Beate went to her husband’s unit’s homecoming ceremony when they returned from Iraq and could see they shared her pain.
“For me, it’s like, 'yes, these Soldiers gave their lives,' but all Soldiers and veterans have to carry their experiences and memories,” she said.
At the SOS center May 30, families stopped by throughout the day to leave flags at the pictures of their fallen and visit with staff and other families.
“I love talking about him,” Beate said about her husband. “It keeps his memory alive.”
As she spoke, Beate adjusted the silver bracelet that listed Oscar’s name, date and place of death. She explained the meaning of the top line of text.
“When someone becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure,” Beate said. “He was 'My Schatz.'”