I am a Gold Star Mother, not by choice, but by God's will.
Travis joined the Marine Corps 10 days after High School Graduation, in 2003. Nothing or no one could’ve stopped him and definitely no one forced him to sign on the dotted line. Travis wanted to serve his Country, and hopefully make a difference, in anyway he could to our great Nation. Travis was born to serve. Unfortunately, devastatingly enough, My Precious Travis was KIA in Ramadi ,Iraq on April 6, 2004 in a hostile ambush with 9 other Marine Brothers and 1 Navy Corpsman. Travis was just 19 years old and had only had been in Iraq 3 short weeks. Travis, at his young age, lived and loved life to it‘s fullest. A young man who was very comfortable in his own skin. He did more in his short life than most do in a lifetime.
Travis loved History. He watched it on TV every chance he could. Travis was born on Memorial Day weekend in Red, White, and Blue and 19 yrs. later was brought home to me, draped in Red, White, and Blue. He is now also a part of History. I'm so very Proud of his Courage, Honor, Commitment and Ultimate Sacrifice for family, friends, strangers, you and me.
The day I received the news from 3 Marines in my carport, as I stood limp, I vowed to my Son, “There’s a reason God took you from me and it's a calling for me to help other Gold Star Parents, as from my knowledge, and never let you, My Son, be Forgotten”. Never in my wildest imagination could I have anticipated the Journey I was to embark on.
Unfortunately, I have met way too many Gold Star Parents and Families as I never wanted any more to walk in my shoes. I have been to as many Fallen Services as I possibly could attend to extend my Love and Support and to share my personal information so to provide an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on anytime they may want to reach out. I'll be there.
Through this journey Travis has placed me on almost everyday there’s something unreal, or amazing he has brought to me. I tell him he sure comes up with some doozies which is fact. I have been to many places I never thought I'd fly to (I hate flying) and met so many incredible people, throughout this great Country. All in my Sons Honor. Travis knew in my heart, my Mission in his Honor was not going to be complete, till I had the Honor of meeting Our President George W. Bush. Travis, I tell him “Son, you just keep working miracles everyday“. In June 2008 I wrote a letter to President Bush telling him my daughter, grandson and I where going to be in Washington, D.C. for an event put on by the White House Commissions affairs in September, “A Time of Remembrance” and would love to be able to meet with him, as I am a Gold Star Mother. I got a regretful reply that he would not be there in town at that time, his apologizes. Well I figured that was my last chance as I knew I would not be going to D.C. till at least May of 2009 for Memorial Weekend. And President Bush would be leaving Office in Jan. 2009.
Travis once again was taking care of his Mother. I received a phone call on Jan. 3, 2009 from a White House representative addressing the letter I had written the President in June . He was inviting me and my family to a Gold Star Family Reception at the White House on Wed., Jan. 14th with President Bush. I was speechless to say the least. The next day by email I had received a personal invitation to a Reception at the White House with President Bush. We only had a weeks notice but it immensely worth it all.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009, the Gold Star Families were invited into the White House at 2:00 PM and allowed to take as many pictures as we liked . Normally you’re not allowed cameras at all in the White House. So that was outstanding as it was. Then at 2:45 PM we were shown into a room set up with chairs. At 3 PM President and Mrs. George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came into the room. Wow, my heart about stopped. It was beyond what words can capture and way more than I expected.
President Bush addressed us all and with a very heartfelt and emotional short speech he welcomed us. We listened briefly. Then he said he would join and greet every family individually in the next room over. Throughout the afternoon we were catered too and treated like royalty with genuine support, honor and respect of our Lost Loved Ones. While the Families waited our turns we were taken into a huge reception room where a gorgeous table was set elegantly with hors d'oeuvres, pastries and drinks.
My daughter, grandson, Sgt. Major escort and myself waited patiently for our turn as we were not in a hurry. Finally they got us and escorted us to the room where President Bush graciously met us at the doorway, greeted us in. I was so nervous but he gently kissed me, put his arm around me and guided us into the center of the room. He then greeted my daughter, grandson, and Sgt. Major with the same respect. The nervousness disappeared and an amazing calmness fell over the room instantly. His humbleness and sincerity was something I will never forget.
A man of his stature, power looked into my eyes and never wavered. My eyes filled with tears as I spoke of my son, Travis, so did his. He assured me Travis' life was not in vain, and he will never be forgotten. We laughed ,we joked, we were at ease. President Bush signed a few things I had brought with me, and then he coined us all, with his Presidential coin. Wow! He had his arm around me and held my hand the whole visit. You could feel the Love he was generating for us in our heartache and pain. He again kissed me as we said our goodbyes. What a memorable day in our lives.
President George W. Bush has my full admiration and respect for a very difficult job well done. Mission complete to the best of his ability, in the time allotted, for this great Nation.
Travis and my journey shall continue, as needed.
We Pray for World Peace
Proud Mother of Lcpl Travis J. Layfield, USMC
Book Review: Her Last Day
3 days ago