Tribune-Courier News Editor
DRAFFENVILLE — A Fairdealing Gold Star Mother honored the life of her son, fallen soldiers from his unit and Marshall County and prisoners of war and those listed as missing in action with a balloon launch on Sept. 27 at the Veterans’ Memorial at Mike Miller Park.
Sandy Graham said she lost her son Kevin Graham to a roadside bomb on Sept. 26, 2009 in Afghanistan. She added she lost her husband Daniel Graham to cancer last December.
“The Lord has really been there for me, and I am thankful to Him and all the prayers people have offered for me,” Graham said.
She said Gold Star families in other communities were celebrating their fallen children’s lives with similar ceremonies.
“When we see their names on the wall (of Marshall County servicemen killed in action), we don’t see their faces. We’re here to remember their lives,” Sandy Graham said.
Kevin Graham’s battalion executive officer, Capt. Luke Bushatz, called upon the crowd not to remember how fallen servicemen died, but how they lived their lives.
“They inspire me to be a better man, not a better soldier, but a better man,” Bushatz said. “I want to be a better husband, a better father and a better son.”
Bushatz recalled Kevin Graham as his driver in the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, part of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is permanently based in Fort Lewis, Wash.
“He was quiet and reserved, but still very personable,” Bushatz said. “As a soldier, he always cared more about his guys than himself. He showed that every day. He loved them like his kids.”
Sandy Graham recalled her son as a lover of cars and the military. Though he did not enlist as soon as he met the age requirement, she knew his destiny was the Army.
“He always loved military museums and military artifacts and movies,” Sandy Graham said. “He loved his country and always respected those in the service.”
Kevin Graham enjoyed a close relationship with his father. His mother recalled him dressing in his father’s Army fatigues, and helping him build a 1939 Ford hot rod. His interest in cars continued. Before his deployment, he purchased a 1965 Pontiac Le Mans.
Two years ago, the Grahams celebrated their son’s life on Sept. 29, 2010, with a custom car show titled “Kevin’s Krooze” at Miller Park.
With conflict ongoing in Afghanistan, Sandy Graham said new Gold Star families are created every day with more warriors killed in action.
“Treasure their memories,” Sandy Graham advised. “We feel a mixture of sorrow and pride for our children. I know it’s hard. Memories come flooding back, like the moment when we got the word. We have to get beyond that and treasure the memories we have.”