Debbie Austin has experienced what no mother ever should.
Her 19-year-old son, Pvt. Shane Austin, Edgerton, was killed in action on Oct. 8, 2006 while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
But Debbie has found comfort in connecting with other mothers of deceased soldiers through American Gold Star Mothers (AGSM).
AGSM is a national organization founded in the early 1900s linking families of fallen heroes, educating the public, and keeping their loved ones’ legacies alive.
“Our mission is to help educate communities and schools and raise awareness of veterans past, present and future,” Debbie said. “And serve our veterans past, present and future.”
To that end, AGSM is hosting local fund-raisers, including a Patriot Run on Sept. 11 at the Great Mall of the Great Plains and a Reach Across America event on Dec. 10.
Money raised will go toward purchasing wreaths for veteran’s cemeteries.
Organization members will have information about the fund-raisers at the Patriot Run booth at the Johnson County Fair, Aug. 9-13.
“It’s rewarding,” Debbie said of the organization. “When I do the events like the Patriot Run or the Reach Across America, it’s kind of bittersweet emotion. I am part of that (organization) because I lost my child, and we represent lot of families that have lost children. But there is a lot of pride. It is a way to mingle with other people who know what you are going through.
“The ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten as long as we are here.”
Shane was killed in Ramadi, Iraq when an enemy grenade was thrown into the tank he was riding in.
He received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his valor.
Debbie said she was inspired by the outpouring of support in the Gardner-Edgerton-Spring Hill communities after her son was killed.
Shane’s funeral – a standing room only memorial attended by local, state and national dignitaries – was held in the Gardner Edgerton High School auditorium, and hundreds of persons lined the streets of the funeral procession to pay their respects.
“Seeing the streets lined with people with their hands on their hearts and waving flags on the day of his funeral is an image I can never forget,” Debbie said. “And it keeps me strong every day.”
She said her mission is for the community to continue to band together for veterans.
“I also want to bring together other family members who have lost a loved one and let them know there is a lot they can do to honor their loved one,” Debbie said. “I know there are other families (of fallen soldiers) in our area that I have not been able to get in touch with.”
For more information, visit goldstarmoms.com or contact Debbie at (913) 526-8377 or [email protected]
Mothers of fallen heroes find comfort, keep loved ones’ legacies alive