Episode 246 Thad Forester Gold Star Brother Remembering the Fallen Transcript

This transcript is from episode 246 with guest Thad Forester.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Scott DeLuzio: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. It is a tragedy whenever a service member is killed in action. Not only does the nation lose someone who is selfless enough to put their lives on the line for others, but the families of that service member are also left behind to pick up the pieces.

Scott DeLuzio: And on this podcast, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with several gold Star family members, but an often overlooked subset of this category is the Gold Star siblings, the brothers and sisters of the fallen service members. So today my guest is Thad Forrester, and his brother Mark Forrester, was [00:01:00] a US Air Force combat controller who has killed an action in Afghani.

Scott DeLuzio: That is the author of the book, my Brother in Arms, and the host of the Patriot to the Core podcast. And today we’re going to be honoring his brother, mark and discussing his experiences after Mark was killed in action. So welcome to the show, Thad. I’m glad to have you here.

Thad Forester: Thank you, Scott.

Scott DeLuzio: Great to be here.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe a little bit about your brother Mark and your relationship with.

Thad Forester: Well, shortly after he was killed, within a day or two or three outta sight, I was gonna write a book about his life. You know, I didn’t care that I didn’t have any writing experience.

Thad Forester: And so for those of you who read the book, you’ll know, you probably will realize that. But it didn’t matter. Wanted the record of his life. And he didn’t have any children, wasn’t married. And so we needed to preserve his legacy. So, yeah, I’m the, you know, we, there’s five kids in our family, and Mark was the youngest.

Thad Forester: I was next. [00:02:00] I’m next the youngest. We were very close. We lived together when he was in college. And so, years later I started Patriot at the Core podcast. And I don’t have near the number of episodes that you have. I probably, I think I started before you, I think Scott, but you have, you know, you’ve stayed at it and releasing a few a week now, two a week now.

Thad Forester: So I love doing it though, and I love. Speaking about, you know, mark and our foundation and just sharing how important, you know, freedom is to, to me and my family.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, that, that’s a great goal that you had when you set out to write that book you know, to just put down his story because.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, he’s no longer here to tell his story, and it’s important for future generations to know the stories of the men and women who fight and sacrifice their lives for our freedoms and. You know, people like your brother, my brother they went out there not [00:03:00] expecting that they were going to die.

Scott DeLuzio: I don’t think anyone goes and expects that that’s going to happen. But I think anyone who puts a uniform on, and especially if they deploy overseas, they know that there is that possibility that they may not come home at some point. So, you know, it’s a great thing that you’re doing and honoring his memory and keeping.

Scott DeLuzio: His memory alive all these years later. And so that’s definitely an admirable thing that you’re doing. And I, you know, heads off to you for everything that you’re doing there. So let’s talk a little bit about Mark and kind of his background. He felt a calling to join the military, didn’t he, like, as he was growing up and didn’t he kind of feel like that was his purpose?

Scott DeLuzio: Like his mission in life was. In the military, like he was doing

Thad Forester: what he was supposed to be doing. It came a little later. You know, we didn’t really have military in our family. I mean, our dad was in the Army National Guard for a few years. That was before we were born. So it wasn’t like a tradition in the family.

Thad Forester: And so, really what happened is [00:04:00] he was already kind of living a life of service. He was a volunteer missionary. He was serving in California. And nine 11 happened. And so that’s kind of when he felt like I think God wants me to help protect our freedoms and to help kill terrorists. And so that was 2001.

Thad Forester: So a lot of things happened cause he didn’t join until 2007. But yeah he did fill that calling. He finished his mission. He went to college and then he, you know, enlisted in the Air Force and yeah, 2007.

Scott DeLuzio: And his faith played a big role, not just in his military service, but in his life in general. From reading your book I got to learn a little bit about your brother and how much his faith and his background has impacted him.

Scott DeLuzio: And so you were talking about how that was kind of his, his calling and it seemed like that was what he was meant to do, right?

Thad Forester: Yeah. And I wanted, I wanna make it clear, and I tried to make it clear in the books, God is, I mean, look it’s so easy to say all these great things [00:05:00] about him. You know about your brother when they’re not here.

Thad Forester: We do it all the time. But I tried to back it up with examples and with statements from people that knew him that were unsolicited because I didn’t go to people and say, tell me good things about Mark. You know, never once would I say something like that. And so, you know, cuz I did get a lot of input in the book from teammates and from friends and teachers and coaches.

Thad Forester: But they voluntarily shared all this information, and so I think it, it was what we believed and we knew, but we weren’t with him all the time. So it was great to hear these kind of, to date what we thought about him just being consistent in his standards, I think really is what’s most important is no matter what you believe, he just was consistent in every, no matter the situation.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And that I, I think that did come through in the book because there were many examples, many stories that were provided in the book of [00:06:00] people, not just necessarily family members, but other people he served with and other people in his life that basically said the same thing, that he had a strong foundation and like he knew.

Scott DeLuzio: Kind of black and white. He knew right and wrong, and he stayed on the side of right as often as possible. I mean, he was human. He’s, he wasn’t perfect. None of us are. Right? And so, you know, I don’t think it came across as, you know, he was this absolutely 100% perfect human being. I mean, that would’ve just been unrealistic.

Scott DeLuzio: And I think, yeah. So I think he did a good job with kind of depicting his life and his values and the way he presented himself in his life. That was well done, I think in the book. You know, coming across with different examples from different people throughout his life was kind of important to paint that picture.

Scott DeLuzio: And I think you did that pretty well. Appreciate. Yeah, so Mark was killed in action on September 29th, 2010, which was just about a month after [00:07:00] my brother was killed in action. So tell us about how you and your family learned about Mark’s passing. We

Thad Forester: were given simultaneous notifications, so at Mark’s request, if anything were to happen to him, he had already, I don’t know what the paperwork is called.

Thad Forester: You do probably, but you know, he had filled out. Our parents and I would get notified simultaneously. So they and I go into some pretty good detail in the book about this cuz people seem to be interested in it. But they scoped out my parents house for many hours and waited till my dad got home from work and then they notified him and then within a few seconds or a minute, they knocked on mine, my wife’s store, which an hour and a half away in Tuscaloosa.

Thad Forester: And. Told us. And it was not, it wasn’t just random people. I mean, they were kind of random to us, but they weren’t random to Mark. They knew him. They weren’t, they didn’t pull him from a local, the closest Air Force base. They were teammates and leaders of [00:08:00] Mark’s. And so that was very special to us because they knew him.

Thad Forester: They had trained him and they had probably a little more, you know, there was some emotion there because they knew him and some of them had. You know, had decided he would go on this deployment to that location. Right. So I think it was a, I think as far as combat controllers go, it was a relatively unique notification.

Thad Forester: Sorry, not for the combat controllers, but maybe our military altogether, the combat controllers is a little bit unique I think, in that.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And I was interested in that after reading the book and how coordinated all that was where they both were basically scoping out the house the both houses to make sure you guys were home before going and giving the notification to, to one and making sure that both got the notification at the same time.

Scott DeLuzio: My, when my brother was kill ed he was, he was engaged. He had a fiance and she lived in the same town that my parents lived in. And [00:09:00] so, but they were not notified at the same time. They they came and notified my parents first, and then they left after, you know, a little while. And then they went to her house and notified her as well.

Scott DeLuzio: And so, that was a little bit different and I found it interesting that they would do something like that. For Mark and for your family. Mm-hmm. , you know, through, through that kind of notification process, it’s, it was really interesting how they were able to coordinate all of that. Yeah.

Thad Forester: Did you, had you already found out by the time your parents and her, his fiance found out?

Scott DeLuzio: I believe I had, I think I was actually the first person to find out just because of you know, just the. The message has to communi be communicated from basically one side of the world to the other. And I was in Afghanistan at the time, so it was really just a matter of, you know, radio calls.

Scott DeLuzio: Just getting that out to yeah. To us. And so, it took, I think from the time that he died to the time that I found out it was just a couple hours. And it was late at night when my parents found out which [00:10:00] was actually, In reality, it probably wasn’t much later than when I found out.

Scott DeLuzio: It was probably a few hours after that. But but yeah, they I definitely found out first. Okay. Yeah. But yeah, the notification process in and of itself is pretty amazing. Regardless of who’s being notified or how it gets transmitted. Just because if you think about just how connected the world is these days, especially nowadays, but, you know, back then not so much.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. But. If somebody finds out about something in Afghanistan, you know, how easy would it have been to just drop an email to, you know, someone back in the United States, right? But they shut down all that communication so that kind of thing doesn’t happen. So. So that you don’t end up getting notification.

Scott DeLuzio: Like, like could you imagine if you got an email from somebody that served with Mark saying yeah, I started to tell you, you know, that would be the worst way to, to find out. That’s right. That would be awful. You know? Yeah. So the coordination that takes place throughout the military is pretty amazing.

Scott DeLuzio: If you have never been unfortunate enough for the listeners [00:11:00] to have to have received a notification like that, just the logistics involved are pretty in.

Thad Forester: Yeah. And they got some suspicious looks in our hometown from, you know, a neighbor seeing, cuz they had some guys in civilian clothes that were gonna be assigned to stay with us.

Thad Forester: But they were driving around the ones that, because everybody else in uniform were kind of back parked. And you know, my neighbors like, Hey, y’all need some help. I’ve seen you come down the road a few times and yeah, I mean, some close calls, but it did work out about, about as good as it could.

Thad Forester: I.

Scott DeLuzio: Right, right. Now, Mark died in what some have described as heroic and selfless. Would you be able to describe what happened that day that he was killed? I’ll do my

Thad Forester: best. I mean, I’ve made it like my mission to figure out really what I, what happened or do all I can. It seems like not a lot of people were around, but his, this was like day two of a large scale mission.

Thad Forester: He was with the dismounted element this day. He was the [00:12:00] jtac. And then there was another jtac with the mounted element who was a good friend of his. And the best I know based off of accounts from multiple people and from the Silver Star citation, is that they came under heavy fire. I think it was kinda like an ambush.

Thad Forester: And the team medic who was Calvin Harrison, he was the, he was a green. And he was shot in the open and, you know, and I don’t know why he was out in the open, but he was and they didn’t know where, they didn’t know where these, the sniper was. I think there were maybe about two people out there in the kind of the green zone, I guess you call it Scott, and, Calvin went down and then Mark. It Mark in his attempt to get to Calvin was shot. So we know that Mark was talking to aircraft overhead. He had one or two F eighteens. He had two Apaches for sure anyway, and the Apaches with low birds. And he was telling him he needed help. He said, I got a man [00:13:00] down.

Thad Forester: I need you. I need you now. But the problem was he didn’t know where the enemy was for sure. And even if he did, the enemy was too close to the Americans and some civilians that were in that village too. Some Afghan nationals were killed also at that time. And so I think Mark was just in a situation where he needed help, but he couldn’t get any help from the air.

Thad Forester: And so he exposed himself and moving forward and so he was shot through the forearm and into the upper chest and went down as he was going to Calvin. Yeah. And

Scott DeLuzio: that is about as selfless as it gets. I mean, knowing that there’s an enemy out there, obviously your medic is laying there with, he’s been shot.

Scott DeLuzio: He needs help. You don’t know where that shot came. But you’re gonna go out and try to help this guy anyways because, you know, you don’t wanna just watch the guy lay there suffering [00:14:00] and, you know, possibly dive right in front of your eyes and not do anything. And, but at the same time you gotta have in the back of your head knowing that, you know, I could end up succumbing to the same fate here.

Scott DeLuzio: If I do go out. But if I don’t, you know, how am I gonna live with myself if I don’t go and try to help this guy? So, you know, he was definitely stuck between a rock and a hard place at that point because that was that was not an easy decision to make. But at the end of the day he chose to serve a purpose bigger than himself.

Scott DeLuzio: He chose to go and try to rescue his teammate there, and that was, Incredible. And you know, reading that, that story in your book was pretty moving in, in hearing how he went through all of that. You know, and I’m glad that you were able to share that today on the podcast because you know, I feel like sometimes the general public doesn’t necessarily understand just how.

Scott DeLuzio: Difficult it is in [00:15:00] the military and how some of these split second decisions literally have life and death consequences. Yeah. But you have to make. A decision you have to do something. In this case, you know, Mark could have decided to just hang back and wait for you know, the air support to clear out the enemy, but he didn’t know when that was gonna come, so he had to make a decision and he decided to go after this guy and try to help him.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, unfortunately it didn’t work out for him, but but that was, you know, that was the decision he made. And you know, It’s a difficult one. I mean, regardless of what he ended up doing, it would’ve just been it would’ve been a hard decision to make regardless. So, I mean, yeah. Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: I’m glad you’re able to share that.

Thad Forester: Well, and you know, the Silver Star citation tells us that, which is really what we have to go by now, and tells us that, you know, it was kind of a simultaneous kill. So the guy that killed Mark and Calvin was killed, Mark. So that’s, you know, at least we know that he was a guy, he was a Pakistani and I think he was, he probably had a pretty good [00:16:00] name in the area.

Thad Forester: I think.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, that’s, I mean, in a way it, it’s you know, somewhat satisfying knowing that you know that person is also deceased. But, you know, at the end of the day, it doesn’t. In terms of bringing back, you know, the, your loved ones and stuff like that, you know, it, but in, in a, you know, maybe a dark way.

Scott DeLuzio: It’s somewhat satisfying as well.

Thad Forester: Yeah, I think you kind of felt that, you described that in your book kind of, and you actually used the word dark, I believe, you know, too. Yeah. It’s interesting,

Scott DeLuzio: right? Yeah. it is like a dark way to think about it cuz obviously, you know, human life is a human life and it’s valuable and.

Scott DeLuzio: But at the same time, there are some just terrible people in this world and, you know, getting rid of some of those people is in a dark way. It’s satisfying, you know? Yeah. And I think Mark understood that too, just based on what you wrote in the book about, you know, how he felt it was his calling to go and kill Terrace, and that’s what he wanted to go do.

Scott DeLuzio: So, I think [00:17:00] he kind of felt that same way as well.

Thad Forester: Yeah, absolutely.

Scott DeLuzio: So in the years since Mark was killed, I’m sure there were some ups and downs. Another were, for me you know, with the grieving and mourning and you know, just remembering his life. How have you and your family dealt with the loss?

Thad Forester: Well, it’s been different much like, and you do such a good job of describing this in your book, you gave me a different, a perspective where you allowed me to think about things that I had. Probably thought about in that way before mom and dad grieved differently. Mom instantly, you know, she didn’t really wanna be around people in crowds or go to events because there were, in the months following his death, they were memorial services and events and things.

Thad Forester: We were invited to all the time. And she, I mean, she went to, we all, we went to them, but it just wore her out. And so mom kind of went more of ACLU recluse type person and really in her head, [00:18:00] I don’t, hopefully she doesn’t care me sharing this, but in her head she was kind of thinking that maybe within a few years she would die.

Thad Forester: So maybe she could see Mark again. I think that was kind of her thought. It was, you know, that was her baby boy. And as a parent, I mean, I don’t know how you could survive with one of your children dying. I just the hardest, gotta be the hardest thing in the world, dad. You know, first of all, my dad cries and that’s, I mean, never saw my dad cry before.

Thad Forester: I think I saw him cry once when his mom died in 90. But that was really it. And so now yeah, that’s kind of how they grieve. I guess, well, dad gets emotional talking about Mark and mom has kind of kept herself, but they’ve. They’ve definitely done great work in, in, in helping the community with the foundation.

Thad Forester: Me, I just kind of went to work and I started on the book right away, and that’s kind of what really helped me. It took me three years to write the book. And how long did it take you? It was less than that. Well,

Scott DeLuzio: It probably was. [00:19:00] At least two years of actually dedicated writing. But I started writing it shortly after coming back from Afghanistan, but not with the intention of writing a book.

Scott DeLuzio: It was just more journaling like just yeah, jotting down dates and times and thing, things that. Happened, just events. So, so then I wouldn’t forget it down the road cause I knew as my kids got older, they were gonna have questions about what did I do in the war and what happened to their uncle and all the, this kind of stuff.

Scott DeLuzio: So I wanted to just have the factual type stuff Yeah. Written down. And so I started that early on probably. Maybe late 2010, early 2011. And then it just sat there and I did nothing with it for years. And then it was a few years ago that I decided that it probably, Would make a good book and I should probably write, make this into something and write this book.

Scott DeLuzio: And so yeah, it probably took [00:20:00] about two years, somewhere around there to Okay. From when I decided to start writing as a book and convert all those notes into something legible .

Thad Forester: I think that’s good. I think it’s good. It allows you to really contemplate things and deal with your emotions a little bit.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Yeah. And I don’t know what the process was like for you, but I mean, I went through so many. Drafts and rewrites of things too that you know, the direction that I started the book off in, it was a complete 180 by the time I finished. Like just even the order of things that I put in the book were totally different than what it ended up being.

Scott DeLuzio: And so, you know, it, it really was a process, but. In a way, for me anyways, it was somewhat therapeutic to kind of just get it out there and just be like, okay, this is documented now. And I feel good about that because, you know, if I got hit by a truck or something and you know, everything that I had in my mind, it was all of a sudden lost, now that would be lost to history and like nobody would be able to go back and Oh, yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: Read any of that [00:21:00] stuff. Any of the events that took place or any of the things that. I wrote about my brother, all that stuff would be pretty much lost. And so, you know, I was glad that it was out there and now it’s in a form that will outlive me and outlive, you know, all that’s right. Really, you know.

Thad Forester: Yeah. I mean, you and I have the bible of our brother’s lives, kind of basically, and or the best record out there. Yeah, and I had, I contacted somebody early on, so within a month probably of Mark’s death. It was somebody that a friend knew that worked for a publishing company and I was talking to her about what I wanted to do.

Thad Forester: And she was pretty negative. She was like, Hey, the market is saturated with military books, and this was in so October of 2010. I never thought it was saturated. I mean, if it was, it really is now. But you know, she wasn’t interested and she wasn’t, didn’t even think it was a good idea. Of course, but that didn’t phase me one bit.

Thad Forester: I was writing it regardless. I didn’t care what it took, how much money it [00:22:00] took. I was writing.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Well, and one of the things that, you know, I don’t know about when you wrote your book what the process was. Cause that was a few years before I wrote mine. But one of the things that, I am so grateful for now is the ability to self-publish a book.

Scott DeLuzio: So even if you wrote a book, you poured your heart into it and you brought it to a publisher and they, you brought it to 20 publishers and they all shot it down and said, no, we’re not gonna publish this. Yeah. You could still publish a book and you don’t need to go through the traditional publishing companies.

Scott DeLuzio: Mm-hmm. and half of the big distribution, I mean, 90, probably 90 plus. Of books are sold on Amazon anyways, so if you, if your book is on Amazon, you’re probably good to go anyways, right?

Thad Forester: Yeah. I joke with people that, hey, anybody can write a book now. And I had a publisher, but we also use kind of through that self-publishing.

Thad Forester: Option. Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Exactly. that’s, I mean, ultimately I went with the self pub publishing option mostly just for the speed of getting it out there because [00:23:00] I was talking to one publisher and they said, yeah, after we get the final manuscript, it’s probably gonna be at least six months before.

Scott DeLuzio: Your book is published. And I was like, well, like I don’t, that doesn’t even comprehend with me. Like, why does it take that long? Yeah. And so I’m sure they have their reasons, but I was like, you know what, I don’t really care. I don’t wanna wait six months. I want to, I just wanna get it out there.

Scott DeLuzio: And you know, but I guess it’s the point that wanted to bring up there is for the listeners you know, if you are a Gold Star family member, if you had someone in the military it doesn’t have to be someone. Served and died. They could have served in Vietnam and came back home and told you stories about that.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, you could write these stories down and put them together in a book and publish them, and it costs you nothing to get them out there and publish other than your time of compiling all the stuff. And you know, why not? Why not put the, these stories out there and have them available for future generations to be able to read?

Scott DeLuzio: I think that it’s just, you know, such a great thing that we have available to us, these. Yeah, I’m with you. [00:24:00] Yeah. So we’re talking about the book. We kind of touched on it a little bit here and there throughout this episode so far. But tell us about the book and what readers can expect from the story.

Thad Forester: Well, the book you can imagine bottom line up front. So you’re gonna find out immediately what happens. And, you know, I’ve read some of the reviews on Amazon and I think some people may not like that. But what I found is, so Scott, one other thing I did to kind of, or do not do, but do to help me as I like to speak, you know, people, I get invited to speak, sometimes I don’t necess.

Thad Forester: I don’t solicit that but I get asked. I’m thankful for that. And people seem to take an interest in the notification and, you know, kind of what happened there at the end. And so I just go ahead and put it right up front is what happens to Mark. And then we kind of start backtracking and. And the different layouts, like you talked about, organizing it [00:25:00] differently.

Thad Forester: I really got a lot of help with Matthew Glenco, who helped me. His name was on the book too. He helped me really organize it in a, in the way it is now. And my thinking was, you know, Mark is not a household name, so most people are not gonna care about his growing up life. This is a record of his life.

Thad Forester: And that’s the way I looked at it. So we, we needed that for our family at least. So to try to make it as you know, to make it interesting to, to make it actual and factual, but also kind of interesting for the readers. We just mixed it up. And so it kind of goes it goes early, late, you know, early, late, kind of moves back and forth.

Thad Forester: So, The book is, it mixes it up that way, I think, for the reader. So hopefully it’s a little more interesting than going completely chronological

Scott DeLuzio: right. And in the chronological thing I toyed around with that myself as well. Going with the. The basically the end of the story in the beginning and then filling in the blanks. I toyed around with [00:26:00] that. That was one of the versions that I had. And you know, it, I, it was good in your book.

Scott DeLuzio: I, I think it worked out well. I think just the way I wrote mine. I just, it didn’t work the way I was writing it. And so, you know, I ended up going more chronological. At the end of the day, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of that because the way I think, the way you did it, you wove in some of that early years stuff where it was appropriate in the story.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, you’re talking about, you know, the type of kid that he was or the type of man that he was as he was older. A lot of that has to do with the type of kid that he was and you kinda wove that in Yeah. Through the story and stuff. So, I think it was well done. And I hadn’t read your book when I was on your podcast, A Patriot to the core podcast.

Scott DeLuzio: I have now, obviously. And when we were last talking, you almost seemed to be trying to convince me that you didn’t think your book was written as well as mine was. That’s the way it seemed to me, and I felt bad. And of course, since I hadn’t read it, I couldn’t really say anything [00:27:00] about it.

Scott DeLuzio: Like, oh no you’re crazy. Don’t, you know, don’t say that or anything. But now that I have, I felt like I need to say that your book actually had me choked up at some points. You know, reading the book, it just, The emotions kind of hit me because it was well written and it let me in on who this person was, who Mark was, and who he was to your family, and it almost made me feel like I was part of that.

Scott DeLuzio: Like I, I knew. A little bit about who he was and it kind of stung when you were talking about some of the stuff when he was when he was lost and everything like that. So, you know, it did have me choked up a little bit and maybe just, you know, because of my own experiences it kind of, Kind of affected me a little bit differently than maybe your average reader but still, I think I think I have to say, I have to just correct the record here and say I thought your book was extremely well written and the way that the story was told was done incredibly well.

Scott DeLuzio: And so I I, first off, I encourage listeners to go pick up a copy of this book, my brother in Arms to. Learn more about [00:28:00] what the sacrifices are that gold star families go through but also to learn about who this individual was, who Mark was and take a look at all the stuff that, that you guys had to go through in that time period.

Thad Forester: Yeah. Hey, and I mean, I appreciate you saying that. I’m glad it had you had some emotion to the book. That’s good. But yeah, I mean, I still think your book is very well written too. And I loved your book because I related so well to it, so it, it really got me thinking about some things that I hadn’t thought about before.

Thad Forester: Scott.

Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Well, one of the things that you wrote about in your book that never really occurred to me so lemme just back up a second. So your family is Mormon faith. And so you talked about how that was critical part of Mark’s life and how you guys were brought up.

Scott DeLuzio: And you started talking about some of the traditions and things like that. And growing up as a Catholic in my family, like, you know, Catholics have their own traditions and, you know, [00:29:00] Mormons have their own traditions. And it’s just interesting to hear some of the different things between the mission work that Mark did and the even you described some of the funeral and.

Scott DeLuzio: Just the little variations to it. It was just interesting to me to learn more about that and get, kinda just peel back the curtains a little bit and kind of get a little insight into what that was like for you and your family. It was an interesting part of the book. It kept me you know, on my toes, kind of just trying to learn a little bit more about what you guys what you guys do in terms of traditions and all that kinda stuff too, you know.

Thad Forester: We all have our own. I think one thing I talked about probably was the, maybe you’re thinking of like the dedicated, dedicating the grave. I imagine other faiths do that. Maybe it’s called something different. Yeah, that, and shoot, I don’t know what else now.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, no, that, that was, I think that was what what I was referring to.

Scott DeLuzio: It was just interesting, you know, it, like you said, everyone has their, Beliefs and faiths and traditions and all that kind of stuff. And they’re all they’re all unique. They’re all different, but they all [00:30:00] are important to those families and to the communities that, that they’re in.

Scott DeLuzio: And so, you know, I’m glad to have learned a little bit about what you guys do and how that that all took place in your family, right? Yeah. So, you briefly mentioned this before, but your family set up the Mark Forster Foundation. And you sent me this awesome hat for the people who are watching on YouTube this hat.

Scott DeLuzio: So thank you for that, by the way. That’s good, Oni. Yeah. Thank you. So tell us about the foundation, what its mission is and how people can go about supporting the mission.

Thad Forester: Well, you know, we started getting, people wanted to do something, you know, after the, when he was killed. And there’s only so many flowers, you know, that you can take, and they don’t last long.

Thad Forester: And so you have that and then you have, well, how do we really teach people about Mark and people like Mark? Because people, you know, the country at least, or the world needs to know. People that [00:31:00] choose to fight evil and voluntarily serve. And even if they don’t voluntarily serve, they serve. I mean, man, God bless the people who were, who’ve been drafted as well.

Thad Forester: I mean, but we live in a day and time where we’ve, I mean, we, well, we always have to have people to step up and to stand for what’s right. So we have to, why don’t we do our little part to help share that? And so we started the Mark Forrester Foundation pretty quickly. After his death, I think it was officially like created as an official organ non-profit, like December of 2010.

Thad Forester: And so the priority is we provide at least one scholarship that I’m pretty sure we’ve never done when we’ve done probably two or more every year to a hay level high school. Which is the school we actually all went to. And so scholarships is the priority. Then we, whatever we have left we, we give to other organizations usually that support our [00:32:00] military and vet or veterans in some way or another.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, that’s great. And especially, With the education component of, you know, letting people know, you know, who Mark was and the about the sacrifice that, that he made and everything like that. And so, that’s an awesome thing that, that you guys are doing. Where can people go to support the foundation if they are feeling like they, they want to help support this?

Thad Forester: Yeah, markaforester.com and Forester has got that. No double R, it’s one R in the middle, one at the end. Or you can go to JAG28.com just like it’s on your cap on that eagle. You get a JAG two eight in there. That’s Mark call sign. So yeah, markaforester.com or JAG28.com is the foundation website.

Thad Forester: You can learn all about it there. We’re just a family run organization and we, I wish I could do it full. That’s what I love doing, but you know, that’s, I don’t get to do it full time .

Scott DeLuzio: Well, you know, it’s a great [00:33:00] cause. And I think I think not doing it full time just means that there are other things that you’re meant to be doing in this world too.

Scott DeLuzio: I mean, it’s great that it’s there. But you know, there are other things that, that. Is in your wheelhouse right now that you need to be focused on. But I bet you at some point you could probably make it a full-time thing if if it’s the right time, the right place and everything like that, you know what I mean?

Scott DeLuzio: So we also mentioned that you’re the host of the Patriot to the Core podcast. I wanna give you the opportunity to talk about that a little bit. Tell us what the podcast is all about and and where people can go to, to check that out. Well,

Thad Forester: it’s really, I just interview great Americans and in a lot of ways, I know it’s not your format, but we also have some overlap.

Thad Forester: Your podcast and mine. But a friend of mine came to me in like 20, probably 2015 and said that you should start a podcast cuz you know all these people that, these like American heroes kind of thing. They’re people that I learned, knew through my brother at the time. And I was like, well, I don’t really know what a [00:34:00] podcast is.

Thad Forester: I haven’t been able to figure that out yet. I see this app on my phone and it looks like it’s a great thing, but I don’t even underst. . And so, I just sat on that and then a little, maybe a year later or something, I said, I’m gonna look into this more. So I called the guy up, said, Hey, you told him I should start a podcast.

Thad Forester: Tell me more about it. So anyway, I started it in 2016 and I just started interviewing. Started out with people I knew, people that I knew through my brother. Just these are just selfless people, you know. And of course several of ’em have been injur. Injured severely or you know, suffer ptsd, that type of thing, mentally and emotionally.

Thad Forester: And so, and it’s branched out from there. It’s not all military, it’s heavy military, but that’s just kind of how it’s worked out. But people who serve their fellow man who serve the country, and that’s really what it is. It’s just American patriots. And so I love doing, I was doing two a, or no, not two a week.

Thad Forester: I was doing one, two a month for a few years, and then I just, [00:35:00] life, you know, with that third kid and things going on it slowed down. So now I do when I can.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And you know what? It is a hard thing to keep the schedule where, you know, if you commit to, okay, every, you know, Tuesday I’m gonna have an episode coming out, and then you don’t have a guest that week it’s like, okay, what am I gonna do?

Scott DeLuzio: What am I putting out? It’s gonna be awfully boring episode if it’s just me just out there ranting about whatever, you know. So,

Thad Forester: have you ever thought about like just stopping it, stop doing the podcast,

Scott DeLuzio: you know, Have been asked that before. And I have this, I don’t know if it’s like a OCD kind of thing, but like once I get started on something, I’m gonna keep going at it until I stop.

Scott DeLuzio: If you ever are subscribed to this podcast and there’s like a day that’s missed, be like, okay, he’s done. Cause there’s nothing else. Like that’s when it’s gonna end is I’m just gonna be done at that point. I don’t know. Like I, right now, it’s not even on my radar. It’s not even [00:36:00] something I even consider is stopping.

Scott DeLuzio: I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I mean, I’ve done this almost four years now and I haven’t missed a week for putting out an episode in that time period. And if I can help it, I. Yeah, if I’m sick in the hospital or something like that and I physically can’t do it, then yeah, obviously I’m not gonna do it.

Scott DeLuzio: But you know, I’ll get right back to it as soon as I can. But I mean, I’ll do it as, as much as I can for as long as I can. Cause there are so many stories. Stories like yours and your family story. Stories of other people, like, like the people you have on your podcast, like these people who go out and voluntarily serve their country, their communities, or whatever.

Scott DeLuzio: They do all these incredible things, like, yeah, we gotta share these stories. And we gotta help these people too as many of them as we can. Because there are so many people out there who are just suffering in silence. They don’t know about some of the resources that are available to them. And.[00:37:00]

Scott DeLuzio: You know, part of this podcast, part of my mission with this is to share as much as I can with with those people and help them out in any way that I can. And as long as that number of, you know, 22 a day, they keep throwing that number around. As long as that number isn’t going down, as long as that number is not zero, I should say I feel like I need to keep doing this.

Scott DeLuzio: And yeah. You know, if that means I’m gonna do it for another. 20, 30 years and I’ll do it for another 20, 30 years. You know, who knows If podcasting even will be a thing, then maybe it’ll be something else and we’ll just, you know, telepathically transmit it to our brains or something. Oh yeah, no whatever form it takes, I’ll just, I’ll keep doing it and you know, keep helping people as long as I can, you know?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. You got a

Thad Forester: good thing going for sure. Every time I think about quitting, I’m like, you know, I love it though. Or I’ll release an episode. It’s like, oh yeah, okay. I love this. But, right. I think about it a lot. .

Scott DeLuzio: No, I will say though, I have had a couple [00:38:00] times where scheduling with a guest that just didn’t work out.

Scott DeLuzio: Like none of the episodes that have come out, this is not anything that I’m talking about with any of them, but we’re. People say that they’re gonna, they’re gonna come on the show, they’re gonna be a guest. And we schedule a time. We set it all up and I’m sitting there and I’m, I got the screen open.

Scott DeLuzio: I’m waiting for them to show up. And then nothing like 15, 20 minutes later, it’s still nothing. And I’m like, okay, what’s going on? So I reach out to the person like, oh yeah, sorry, my kid was sick or something. And then they come back and let’s reschedule for next week. Okay, cool. Let’s do it, and we’ll reschedule.

Scott DeLuzio: And then they do the same thing the next. Those people drive me nuts and eventually I’m just like, you know what? Nevermind. Yeah. I, it’s not worth it. I, mm-hmm. You can go tell your story to somebody else, but I, it’s not gonna be here cause I’m not wasting my time. Well, you seem to make it

Thad Forester: clear now, you know, in the, to when you prep people, you just let ’em know, don’t do that.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Well, pretty much, yeah. Yeah. I put that in the notes that I sent [00:39:00] to all the guests is I. Just, I mean, be on, like, it’s just a common courtesy thing. Like just be on time and if you can’t be on time, I get it. Like life happens. Just let me know. Shoot me a one line email or something and just say, Hey, can’t make it cool.

Scott DeLuzio: No problem. We’ll reschedule. But if I’m sitting there for 15, 20 minutes just staring at a blank screen, I’m probably gonna be a little ticked off . Yeah. So, man, it’s.

Scott DeLuzio: I think your story and your message that you have in your book and everything that you’ve been doing through your podcast, through you know, the book through the foundation for Mark. To me it’s just inspirational knowing that the worst can happen to, to you, to your family. You know, your little brother didn’t make it home.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, that’s such an awful thing, like you said, for your parents, like no parent should have to bury a child. But seeing you now it’s now 12 years later seeing you being able to tell this story [00:40:00] and. Just getting that out there and sharing with other people. To me it’s just, it’s inspirational knowing that even in your darkest days, there is better days ahead.

Scott DeLuzio: There are better days ahead. That was terrible English , but there are better days ahead and. It’s just inspiring to know that and hopefully for the listeners who are out there who might be in a similar situation, maybe they’re dealing with some grief or loss in their life, or even if it’s not a grief situation for them, maybe it’s, they’re just having a rough time in their life.

Scott DeLuzio: Just knowing that no matter how bad it gets, better days are ahead. Good things can come still despite all that, the bad that has taken place. Right? Yeah.

Thad Forester: Yeah. And don’t be afraid to ask people. This is what I feel strongly, Scott, is if, you know someone’s going through something hard, they’ve, it’s not just a death, but, well, let’s just talk about a [00:41:00] death because of our show here, but.

Thad Forester: Feel free to ask them about that person. Now, they may not choose to talk about it. I mean, it just depends on the person I know. But for the most part, people want to talk about that their loved one. And if there’s emotion that comes from it, then that means, you know, somebody you had, you cared. And so think it’s better to ask him, or, you know, you could even say, Hey, I was just, you know, I missed Mark.

Thad Forester: I was thinking about him. And or can you, can. Can you tell me what happened? I saw a friend just a few months after Mark’s death and in Walmart, and I hadn’t seen him in, you know, 15 years at least. And he said hey, what

Scott DeLuzio: happened?

Thad Forester: And I appreciated that and I realized that there are some people that don’t deal with grief like that, or may not like it.

Thad Forester: But for the most part I think it’s okay to ask people and don’t be afraid. And if they don’t wanna tell you, they won’t, but they’re probably gonna appreciate you showing some concern. Versus, I know we, some people get uncomfortable and say, Hey, I don’t really [00:42:00] know what to say. So you just, you avoid the elephant in the room and I don’t think that does any good.

Thad Forester: Yeah. And I feel

Scott DeLuzio: like especially years after the death, right. In the immediate couple weeks after that death, you got everybody and their mother knocking down your door. They’re there to support you. They’re doing everything. They’re coming over your house or they’re making meals or bringing flowers or doing all these things.

Scott DeLuzio: You, you mentioned you had, you know, more flowers than you knew what to do with. And you know, I don’t know if your family had the same situation with meals, but we had more food than we knew what to do with. Yeah. I mean, we could have fed most of the town, like we had so

Thad Forester: much food. Mm-hmm. We had to have people managing the food, just where to put it.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, we didn’t have enough refrigerator space or freezer space or anything like that for all of this food. And eventually it would go bad. So like, you know, people would come over and we’d send ’em home with like, plates of food. Like, here, take this too, because we don’t know what to do at all of it.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And [00:43:00] that outpouring of support is great and not like knocking that at all. But years later, You have maybe a holiday or an anniversary or something like that comes around, and I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s sad. It, you know, it’s like, man, I’d love to spend Christmas with my brother.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, I’d love to have him around. You know, but, you know, that’s just a, not a reality. It’s just not gonna happen. And. You know, it’s just people reaching out and just checking in on you and seeing, you know, Hey, how you doing? You know what mm-hmm. , what, what’s going on? You know, that, that type of thing means the world to me anyways.

Scott DeLuzio: And it sort of goes along the lines of what you were just saying about, you know, people just asking the questions, reaching out, you

Thad Forester: know? Well, and sometimes you may go through, like, like for me, I went through probably a period of numbness for several years. And then it kind of hits like, wow, it’s been a long time.

Thad Forester: I haven’t seen Mark in a long time. You went through your own [00:44:00] grieving process and part some of it was, you know, kind of unhealthy and that you talk about, we deal with it all differently and so it’s important to just to not forget and Yeah. I mean, and we’re, we do have a great support system and all Mark’s teammates out there, I mean, there’s so many of y’all that, that, that contact us and it’s just, it’s, we just greatly appreci.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And those people you know, especially the people that served with my brother and I’m sure the people who served with your brother as well. They’ve been great. They’ve been, they’ve reached out to us, you know, consistently. And some of them they do it in their own time too.

Scott DeLuzio: They, you know, they weren’t maybe quite ready to reach out right away the first, you know, couple years. Right. Because it’s a. Often an overlooked thing is it’s hard for the people who served with them too. They’re friends that, I mean, especially if they were there when he was killed.

Scott DeLuzio: Like that’s a hard thing to do, is to watch a friend be killed and, you know, they got a process through all of that stuff as well. And so, and mom and feel guilty. Oh, sure. [00:45:00] Yeah, definitely. There, there’s definitely a guilt thing involved with that. There’s definitely some maybe a little bit of shame.

Scott DeLuzio: Like, you know, I feel like I can’t talk to the family because maybe it, maybe they’ll look at me like it’s my fault or something like that. Yeah. And, you know, for the people who are out there who have experienced loss like that you know, from my family’s point of. You know, I think I’m speaking for my family and I’m pretty sure I know how they all feel about it, but like, none of us hold any grudges against any of the people who were serving with my brother who, you know, after he was killed we don’t feel like they were responsible or that, you know, we should hold the grudge against them or anything like that.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s just. It’s not fair to them to do that. Like, it doesn’t, it won’t change anything. It’s not gonna bring ’em back, you know, why would we do something like that? You know? And so, so if you feel like if you’re one of those people and you feel like you want to reach out to the family, you’re just not sure how they’re gonna receive it you know, definitely just reach out because I feel like it would be [00:46:00] doing more good than bad if you do.

Scott DeLuzio: Right? Yeah, 100%. Well, that it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today. I really do appreciate you taking the time to come on the show and share your brother’s story. And I also wanna thank you for all that you’ve done and for your family’s sacrifice. I mean, that’s not an easy thing to do to lose a family member that way.

Scott DeLuzio: And. And to continue doing what you’re doing now and sharing his story and coming on this show right now. It just shows incredible amount of strength in that support system that you were talking about. You know, is, has done its job and it has definitely allowed you to you know, pick up where Mark left.

Thad Forester: Hey, thank you. It’s my honor and I’ll do it the rest of my life as to, to represent my little brother. And it’s a passion, of course. It’s a, the labor love of the book. And so I hope people didn’t tune out when I [00:47:00] invented a word earlier in the podcast, Scott I knew something didn’t sound right.

Thad Forester: I said something like, valid date instead of validate. So I was like, is that a word? Anyway, . Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, I didn’t even catch that, that you said that, but I’m sure when I run this podcast through the the transcript thing, that it’ll probably pick that word up and I’ll be like, okay.

Scott DeLuzio: What did he say? Now

Thad Forester: I know something was not right with what I said, but I can’t point it out and I figured it out. So yeah, no worries. It’s been great. I appreciate you having me and and thank you for your book and what it did for me. Your book should be read and and it also helps people to, I think, to probably start thinking, Hey maybe it’s okay to talk to somebody too, to help me deal with whatever I’m dealing with.

Thad Forester: So you did a good job

Scott DeLuzio: there. No, I appreciate that. Yeah. And definitely for the people who are listening not only is it okay to talk to the family members of the fallen service members it’s okay to go talk to somebody professionally too. If you need help with whatever it is that you’re [00:48:00] dealing with whatever you’re going through.

Scott DeLuzio: Mm-hmm. , yeah. Communication is key and nothing’s gonna get better if you just keep it all trapped inside. Talk to. Talking will help. Hey,

Thad Forester: and Scott, one thing you just made me remind me of is George, one of Mark’s teammates in the book. He was there with Mark just to short distance away when he was killed.

Thad Forester: George came to see us in March of 2011, and I think I describe in the book how he was very nervous, and approaching, you know, approaching Haleyville, approaching the Mark Force Senior Airman. Mark a Force Memorial Drive. Every little bit getting closer. And so he was very worried about how we would receive him.

Thad Forester: And he’s a great friend. And so, we’ve got a little bit of that perspective in the book.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. So for the listeners, definitely check out the book. I will have a link to the book in the show notes. I also have a link to the Mark Forester Foundation website. Everything else, all the social media links and everything like that.

Scott DeLuzio: I’ll have all of that in the show notes. So, if you are interested in [00:49:00] supporting the foundation or getting a copy of the book definitely check out those show notes and we’ll link to it right there for you. So again thank you for joining me. I really do appreciate you taking this

Thad Forester: time.

Thad Forester: Yes sir. Thank you for having me, Scott.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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