Time to Reflect
As the New Year is upon us makes me reflect on the things I dreamed of for Michael. I never imagined when Michael was born that one day he would join the military or even fathomed he would die in a war. As the new year rolls in Michael's 30th birthday is right around the corner January 22. If things were different maybe I would be a grandmother now and babysitting so Michael and his wife could bring in the New Year.
5k Thompson Park in Memory of SPC. Michael L. Gonzalez
But.... Things are not different life takes paths that no one can explain. Instead we honor Spc Michael L Gonzalez's memory and legacy with fundraisers Dinner/Dance in the spring and a 5K at Thompson Park in the fall to support other veterans that call Michael their Brother in Arms. 2018 will be our 10th Annual dinner dance and our 6th 5K. All of this can not be done without all of our sponsors , donors and those who continue to support us. Click HERE to view the companies that sponsored the 2017 5K. With a grateful heart we thank all of our sponsors, donors, runners and dancers!!! Wishing all of you the best in 2018!!!!
Organizations we supported in 2017:
Hoof Prints on The Heart: https://www.hoofprintsontheheart.org/
ARMS : https://supportarms.org/
Courageous Healers: https://www.courageoushealers.org/
Amazing Grace - Operation Safe Haven: https://opsafehaven.com/
The Boy before the Soldier
Photograph by Rob Wilson Photography
Teddy the blanket, Winnie the Pooh, “Go Go” Power Rangers, all things Disney, Ninja Turtles and Doug just to name a few.
His favorite character of all was Teddy the blanket. Michael’s maternal grandmother who died when Michael was 3 years old made the Teddy blanket for his baby shower. They shared so much in 3 short years living next door to us. He would go out in the morning and bang on her door “Mom-Mom let me in.” They ate black olives together and he would read The Fire Engine Book to her. Making all the sounds, “ssssss goes the hoses”. He carried Teddy everywhere with him and needed it to sleep at night. On Monday nights his dad and him would watch MacGyver together and play Toro. Michael pretending to be a bull and his dad the bull fighter with the Teddy.
One memory when his mother and her friend went shopping to a large mall in Pennsylvania. Some how the Teddy got lost in one of the stores. In a panic they backtracked to all the stores. Fortunately it was found on top of a clothes rack.
He finally stopped carrying and sleeping with the Teddy around 11 years old and put it away in a box in his closet by then it was not even worthy to be a rag.
Just as the Teddy comforted Michael all those years it comforted me during his funeral. After the funeral I gave the blanket to Reverend Ribbans to be cremated with Michael. My original dreams for Teddy the blanket was to find one identical and recreated it for my first grandchild's baby shower with the old Teddy tucked inside the gift. Teddy most certainly was a good comforter for all.
This American flag was draped over Michael's casket during the viewing and funeral service. At the end of the services in Arlington it was handed to his family. It represents the final honor for his dedication to the United States of America and the United States Army. This was the final good bye to Michael.
A Washington Post photographer captured this private moment of Sgt Brian Scott paying respects to Spc Michael Gonzalez on Memorial Day of 2010. When this picture was placed in a Memorial Day article on the Washington Post website it became very public. The picture has circulated on Facebook post and placed in Meme’s, liked, loved, commented on and shared thousands of times. Good, bad or indifferent makes me smile to see it shared.
Do people read his name on the headstone? If yes, do they Google to see who he was? Do they read the dates of birth and death? Do they understand that Operation Iraqi Freedom means he was KIA in Iraq? Do they know that BSM means Bronze Star Medal and PH means Purple Heart? Was it noticed that “In God We Trust” is the last line on his headstone?
Why are the words “In God We Trust”
Why are the words “In God We Trust” the last line? On September 10, 2008 is the day Michael was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. Before the service at his gravesite we were sat down in a cubicle with a notebook of symbols and examples of what we could chose to put on Michael’s headstone. If you can imagine for one moment of the fog we as a family were in at that time. We chose the cross at the top and the rest was the same with BSM and PH spelled out with Purple Heart being the last line. About two weeks after the services in Arlington I had an overwhelming feeling that Michael’s headstone needed to say “In God We Trust”. Immediately I called Arlington to speak with to the head person to see if I could change the headstone. He said “Ma’am the headstone maybe done already. What did you want it to say?” I told him and he said he would do the best he can and he did.
The Seal of Honor Facebook Page
The most recent post was on the Seal of Honor Facebook page on September 26, 2017. With the post reading, “To those who gave the last full measure of devotion, may we endeavor to be worthy of your sacrifice.”
The word “endeavor” stuck out for me what does it mean “endeavor to be worthy” for me it is exactly what Butterfly Circle of Friends has been successful at accomplishing since the founding in October 2008. We strive to honor Michael’s memory by supporting others. Being part of making the difference in veterans, military and civilians’ lives.
When the Blue Star turns Gold....
On the last Sunday in September the day is set a side for recognizing the sacrifice of military families who's loved one died in service to the United States of America. The President's Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Proclamation
For many years it was just the mother's who received this recognition. The death of a child effects the family as a whole in our case Pedro (dad) and Troy (brother). None of us will ever forget the day the CNOs (Casualty Notification Officers) walked up our sidewalk. "The United States of America regrets to inform you Spc Michael L Gonzalez ..................." . They did not need to speak the words because as soon as I seen them I knew. Like you're in a movie but a million times worse because you're at the receiving end of the tragic news. Our lives as we knew it was changed forever.
I remembering saying ,"We can not do this alone." meaning coping with our grief alone as a family.
In recognition of Gold Star Mother/Family Day. I share some of the resources that we as a family used to help us cope with the greatest loss in our lives our beloved Michael.
Army Survivor Outreach Service
TAPS - Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
General Grief Resources:
Compassionate Friends - Child Loss
Grief Recovery Method