Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to a 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,
everybody. Welcome to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and today we have a really special episode for you for two reasons. First off, today’s episode is the first episode available on W T S Mt V. I’m so excited to be able to bring this show to television. And for those of you who are new to drive on, I’m so glad that you found us.
This show has existed as a podcast for about four years, and now in addition to the podcast, we’re also putting the content on television through W T S Mt V. I’m really excited to be here for. Those of you who are turn tuning in, maybe for [00:01:00] the first time, maybe don’t know much about who I am as the host here.
Lemme give you a little background. I served for about six years in the Army as an infantryman, and I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. My younger brother and I were deployed at the same time, and tragically he didn’t make it home like a lot of combat veterans. I struggled quite a bit after coming back home.
Not only did I have to deal with P T S D and the stresses of combat like so many other veterans who have seen combat have to deal with, but I also had to deal with the grief, the guilt, and other difficulties that surrounded losing my brother. Now, fortunately, I had a great S support system in place and that helped a lot.
Unfortunately, some of the friends that I served with weren’t so lucky, and we started losing them to the war in their head. After coming back home, I began realizing. That I wasn’t the only one who struggled after returning home. [00:02:00] Those guys that I served with, who we ended up losing, they were struggling.
And there’s so many others who struggle after returning home. And I wanted to do something to not only help the guys that I served with, but to help all veterans who feel like all hope is lost and that maybe nobody understands them or that they have nothing left to live for. And so that’s how this show was born.
It was, and it continues to be a way for veterans to share their struggles, the things that they’ve dealt with during or after their service and how they’ve overcome those struggles. It serves to be a source of inspiration or a glimmer of hope to the veterans who think that all hope is lost. We also talk to people who provide different kinds of therapies to veterans, things that may or may not be found on the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
There may be things like art therapy, equestrian therapy, outdoor excursions, or recreation, and other resources like that which [00:03:00] may resonate with a veteran who feels like he or she has tried everything that there is out there and that nothing has been working. But maybe one of those things does resonate.
And when you’re exposed to new resources like these, the ones that I’ve mentioned, you might find that that one thing that you haven’t tried yet, and maybe it’s a thing that pulls you outta that dark place that you’re in now. I know a lot of this sounds pretty deep, pretty dark. And while we do talk about serious topics, we try to have fun too.
On this show, we’ll laugh at ourselves, enjoy good natured jokes about other branches or different things that happen in the military that we all can kind of relate to, and we show that it’s okay to laugh again. Now, at the beginning of this episode, I said that there were two things that make this episode special, and the first was that this is the first episode that we’re airing on W T S M T V.
And the second is that this is an extended Memorial Day [00:04:00] episode, a Special Memorial Day episode. And in this episode, we’re going to cover what Memorial Day is, and more importantly, what it isn’t. We’re gonna hear from Gold Star family members to talk about their loved ones who sacrificed everything for us.
We’re gonna learn what a Gold Star family is. We’re gonna talk to people from various organizations who support the families of our fall fallen soldiers and marines and airmen, sailors. We’re gonna cover why Memorial Day is more than just a day off from work and backyard barbecues. But importantly, we’ll also talk about.
Why those things are still okay to enjoy, despite the fact that Memorial Day is kind of a solemn occasion. So, thanks so much for being here to check out this special episode. I hope you enjoy it and stick around because we’re gonna cover all of that stuff [00:05:00] that we just talked about, and it’s going to be, uh, really, I think a, an incredible episode.
So, stick around.
So today we’re talking about Memorial Day. Today we’re gonna explore its history, what it means in how it’s different from Veterans Day and other military related holidays. We’ll also talk about Gold star families and the way that people celebrate, uh, Memorial Day. So let’s jump in. So picture this, it’s the aftermath of the Civil War.
The nation’s grieving people are looking for a way to honor the soldiers who lost their lives in battle. In 19 or 1868, a day called Decoration Day was established. Uh, people would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and they’d pay their respects. And this was the early beginnings of what we now know as Memorial Day Decoration [00:06:00] Day quickly gained popularity as communities across the country started decorating grave sites with flowers and wreaths.
The act of decorating these hollowed grounds served as a visible reminder of the sacrifices made by the brave men who fought and died for their country. Over time, Memorial Day expanded beyond honoring those who died, fighting in the Civil War to encompass all military personnel who sacrificed their lives in service to their country in all of our nation’s conflicts.
And in 1971, it became a federal holiday, which is now observed on the last Monday in May. And as we celebrate Memorial Day each year, we not only remember the soldiers who died on the battlefield, but also the families who were left behind. We honor the resilience and the strength of the loved ones who endured this profound loss of their sons, their daughters, their spouses, their siblings.
Their sacrifices [00:07:00] are immeasurable, and their stories serve as a reminder of the enduring impact of war. Those families who lost loved ones on the battlefield are referred to as gold star families. You’ll hear that term referred to several times throughout this episode. As we talk to several gold star family members, it’s a club, if you wanna call it that, that no family wants to join because the cost of admission is the life of a loved one.
Gold star symbolizes a sacrifice made by their fallen hero. It serves as a reminder of the profound loss that they’ve experienced and the incredible strength that they possess. Gold Star families are an integral part of our military community, and we honor and support them with the utmost respect and gratitude.
Now, I also want to clear up a common misconception. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are both important holidays, but they have different purposes. And while Memorial Day focuses on honoring those who died in military [00:08:00] service, veterans Day celebrates the service of all veterans, including those who are still with us.
It’s a day to express gratitude and appreciation for their dedication and contributions to our country. And most veterans will cringe when they are thanked for their service on Memorial Day, since it isn’t about them on Memorial Day. So Memorial Day is a time for remembrance, reflection, and gratitude.
People across the country celebrate in many different ways. But the underlying theme is the same. We’re honoring the fallen heroes. Many communities organize parades we’re veterans, military personnel, community members. Uh, they march together to pay tribute to those who made this ultimate sacrifice. And these parades, these, uh, different ways to commemorate the, the day is a powerful display, display of unity and respect.
Other people will [00:09:00] visit cemeteries and memorials. They’ll place flags or flowers or, uh, wreaths, personal mementos on the graves of fallen soldiers. And this act of remembrance keeps their memory alive and shows gratitude for their sacrifice. Some families gather for picnics, barbecues, outdoor activities, and they cherish the freedom that these brave men and women fought to preserve.
It’s a time to appreciate the simple joys of life and spend quality time with loved ones. For those who are flying American flags on Memorial Day, there’s actually a correct way to fly the flag too. On Memorial Day, the flag should be sh flown at half staff until noon on Memorial Day. When the flag is flown at half staff, it should be raised first to the peak, just for a moment, and then lowered to the half staff position.
And then at noon it should be raised to the peak for the remainder of the day. In 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance Act was passed into law as well, and this [00:10:00] law encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who died in service to their country.
You often find patriotic ceremonies, concerts, and other special events held across the country. These events bring communities together to honor and remember those who served. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate Memorial Day. Those who fought and died for our freedoms want us to be able to enjoy those freedoms.
So there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate. The key is to just take a moment to pause, reflect, and express gratitude for the sacrifices that were made by these heroes.
In that introduction to this episode, I mentioned that my younger brother Steven, was killed in action in Afghanistan. We were both deployed to Afghanistan at the same time, but [00:11:00] stationed in different locations. So while we were there, we never saw each other, but we were there at the same time. So his death unfortunately makes me a gold star brother and my parents a gold star mother and a gold star father.
Prior to my brother’s death, Memorial Day, to me was another day off from work or school. It was a day that we usually had a barbecue or some other outdoor gathering. As a kid, I’d march in our town’s parade with my little league team, and I always thought it was so cool seeing all the American flags along the parade route, all the people waving their flags and cheering as we’d walk by and getting candy from the firefighters, uh, who’d they’d throw it off the side of their trucks to all the kids.
Um, and while I knew what the day was about, I knew it was about remembering the people who died in, uh, in war. It didn’t have a lot of meaning to me as a kid. I [00:12:00] didn’t really know anybody who had died that way. I knew that people did die in war. That was just the nature of war, and that those were the people who we were remembering on Memorial Day, but those were other people.
That sort of thing won’t happen or, or didn’t happen to my family. At least that’s what I thought at the time. But the day that my brother was killed, I found myself in a firefight on a mountaintop outside of a small Afghan village, just 15 minutes after receiving notification that he was killed. And after returning home, I wanted nothing more than to grieve alone with my family.
And as we turned down the street towards my parents’ house, I saw the street lined with news vans from every local television, radio, and newspaper. The steady flow of reporters continued for a few weeks, and then it slowly trickled down a bit, but it would pick back up again around significant dates like Memorial Day [00:13:00] and the anniversary of his death.
Unlike many families who lose a loved one at home to. Things like disease and accident or natural causes. Our family’s worst day was broadcast throughout not only our town, but across the state and even across the country. There was no privacy. Even on the day of his funeral news cameras lined up across the street from the church and they were at the cemetery as well.
So I guess I got really comfortable being in front of the camera, which is probably why I’m able to do this show. But Steven was a hockey player. His high school hockey team won the state championship, uh, his senior year in high school, and he was dedicated to all of those who were in his life around him is dedicated to his family, his friends, his teammates, but he didn’t take things too seriously.
He’d always joke around and wouldn’t leave you alone when you were having a bad day. [00:14:00] He knew just the right buttons to push and he’d dig so far under your skin that you couldn’t help but start laughing no matter what was bothering you. But he wasn’t perfect. No one is, but he brought joy and happiness to everybody who was around him from the first interview that our family did after his death.
To this day, it has been our mission to ensure that Steven’s memory doesn’t fade away. He was only 25 when he was killed, and he gave up all of the days ahead of him for all of us, for you, for me, and for people that you or I, or even him for that matter, had never met before. And it would be a tragedy to me and our family if the message of his sacrifice and the type of person that we all lost.
Died with him. And in my book, surviving Son, I dive into [00:15:00] the events leading up to my brother’s death and the aftermath. The book, it’s a bittersweet journey. Uh, it’s filled with laughter and tears and it captures the essence of Stephen’s spirit. And while it’s both funny and sad, joyful and tragic, uh, it tells a story that many people wouldn’t otherwise know, which is why I wanted to write this book.
You can’t get to know the type of guy that Stephen was with, at least cracking a smile. And after knowing who he was, you can’t learn of his tragic death without feeling sad for the loss too. He was more than just a fallen hero. He was my brother. He was a son. He was an uncle, he was a fiance, he was a friend, he was a coworker.
He was [00:16:00] so much more than all of that, but he was also a source of joy and inspiration to all of those who were around him. So join me as we honor all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and remember the lives that were lost in service to our country. Let’s make sure that their stories like Stevens are never forgotten, and together we can carry their legacies forward.
Next up, I want to introduce my next guest, uh, Debbie Lee. And if you’ve ever listened to the Jocko podcast, you may recognize Mama Lee. She was also on drive on a couple years ago in episode 1 35, and she’s the mother of Navy Seal Mark Lee, who was killed in action on August 2nd, 2006. And she’s also the c e o and founder of America’s Mighty Warriors, uh, which we’ll be talking about in just a bit.
But Debbie, uh, thank you for joining me and [00:17:00] welcome back.
Debbie Lee: You bet. It’s an honor to be back and, uh, thank you so much for inviting
Scott DeLuzio: me to do this. Absolutely. Um, so first off, I want to talk about your journey as a gold star mother. Um, mark, your son was, uh, an interesting person. Could you tell us a little bit about the type of guy he was?
Debbie Lee: Sure. Uh, mark was my third child. He was, uh, my youngest and the last one that I had, and he came into our life in a really dark time for us. Um, I married very young. Uh, my mom forbid me to marry him. I proved to her, nobody forbids me to do anything and she could see them some things that were a concern there.
And it ended, you know, he had problems with, um, he’s an alcoholic and was very abusive when he drank and tried to kill me. And so I went through a divorce at 23 with a three-year-old, an 18 month old. And because of the violence, they waived the, uh, waiting period on [00:18:00] the divorce. So it was final the day that I filed, and I found out two weeks later, I was pregnant with Mark.
And they thought he was twins the whole time. So now I’ve got two little kids, don’t get any child support, father’s not in the picture, doesn’t provide any help. And I’m like, how am I gonna raise these two kids? And oh, surprise, now you’re having another one that they think is twins. So I think my family’s doubling, but um, obviously not as a newborn baby, but even at a young age, he had just such a sense of joy and happiness and humor.
He was class clowns two years in a row in high school. And I’m like, this is gonna get you to high or to college. How? And uh, but he really did, he brought a lot of joy and laughter into our home. And even, you know, when he’s deployment, when he was deployed in Iraq, a lot of the guys said, you know, he would lighten it obviously at appropriate times, you know, but when maybe things were heavy and they were in the planning stages for a big mission the next day.
Once they had that done, you know, he’d throw some humor in to kind of lift the spirit and he was always [00:19:00] there for the underdog. If you were being picked on, mark would be there standing up for you, telling people that’s not right. And he didn’t care. He, you know, wasn’t embarrassed if somebody would pick on him because of him doing that.
But, um, very selfless. Obviously. He stood up in the line of fire three times on his final day, gave his life to save his teammates. That was just part of who his character was, you know, all the time. A very giving, um, selfless young man and, uh, very blessed to have him in my life for the 28 years that we did have.
God could have picked anybody else to be his mama, and I got the blessing to be able to do that along with my son Christopher, who served in the Marines. My daughter Cheryl, her husband, served in the Army and blessed with 11 grandkids. And then, uh, last year became a great grandma. I’m not quite sure how that’s possible or how that happened, but I mean, I know how
Scott DeLuzio: it happened.
Well, congratulations. I did not know that. But, um, yeah, the. The picture that you painted of Mark, um, just reminds me of the type of person who [00:20:00] just lights up the room when they walk in. They, they can see someone having a bad day and they, they’re gonna, they’re gonna make sure that that person turns it around and, and it, it isn’t gonna be okay to just not be okay, we’re gonna, we’re gonna fix this problem.
Right. That, that’s the type of person it seems like very much so. Right. Um, yes. Now, fast forward, obviously Mark was killed in Iraq and that, um, had to have had a profound impact on not only your life, your whole family’s life. What does Memorial Day mean to you now, uh, compared to maybe what it meant to you prior to his death?
Uh, and how do you typically comm, commemorate the day? So
Debbie Lee: I, I love that question because I have been on a campaign since Mark died to try to educate people about what the real meaning of Memorial Day is. I get so irritated when you hear the commissioner, the commercials on tv, big blowout sale, get your mattress over Memorial Day or even, you know, some [00:21:00] that try to make it, bring it back to the military and they’re like, we’re giving our veterans a discount on Memorial Day.
And I’m like, oh, okay. Yes. If you know me, you know, 365 days of the year, I’m honoring our veterans and our gold star families, but as gold star family members every day for us as Memorial Day. But we ask as a nation, just one day out of the year to come together and honor and remember those sacrifices.
You know, our loved ones gave their final breath. You know, in combat so that we could be free. And that’s a day that we remember them. When it’s not a celebratory day, you don’t celebrate Memorial Day. That’s the other things you see. Then as a gold star family, you just cringe. You’re like, oh. And not that we’re asking everybody to walk around with long faces and like you’re at a funeral morning all day long.
But we need to come together. We need to educate people in our sphere of influence what it’s really [00:22:00] about. We need to educate those businesses that we go to. If you wanna have a sale, if you wanna give a discount to somebody, do that for our Gold Star family members. You know, um, when you’re at your picnics, at your barbecues, at your adventure, at take time aside before you eat that day and honor and recognize if you know someone read their names.
If you know a family that’s a gold star family member, Say, Hey, can we go to your loved one’s grave with you today? You know, we just want you to know we’re thinking of you. Would you like to go have lunch with us? Tell us more about your loved one. What did they like? You know, who? Who were they? Just like you asked me about Mark.
Tell me a little bit about him. You know, it’s not like you asking that question to a Gold Star family member is gonna be like, oh my goodness, I forgot they were gone. You know, we know they’re not here. People are always afraid that if they mention that, that it’s gonna bother. And it’s like, we want to be able to tell you who they were.
That’s how we keep their memories alive. But that day there does need to be that [00:23:00] song time, that’s a heartfelt time where you and your family or those around you gather, whether you go to C cemetery and walk through those headstones and look at that price. And you know, Mark’s buried up at Fort Rose crayons.
And often when I’m up there, I’ll do a video and just go across all the grays and I’ll say that’s the price of freedom. And, uh, it just is such an important day. And, you know, I don’t blame people. I wasn’t educated. I wasn’t taught growing up what Memorial Day was about. I had a grandmother that we’d go visit her grave.
She didn’t serve in the military. I had twin sisters that died shortly after childbirth. We wouldn’t put flowers on their grave, you know? So I thought Memorial Day was to remember those people in your family who died, right? And so I think that’s really important to go back, even look up some of the history where it started, what the purpose, what the meaning of it was.
Um, there’s so many great documentaries or movies on that we can watch about heroes who sacrificed everything. There’s books that you can read. Um, [00:24:00] there’s kids books out there that talk about that too. So there’s no reason. There’s enough resources out there for us to be able to take that time and educate people what Memorial Day
Scott DeLuzio: really is about.
You know, when I first was asking that question, I, I actually almost slipped and said the word celebrate. Like, how do you celebrate the day? And I, I change it. I, I, I said, uh, commemorate as opposed to celebrate. Because you’re right. It, it is, there is a difference there. It’s not a celebratory thing. It’s not, uh, the 4th of July.
It’s not, uh, you know, some, uh, happy celebration. Uh, and when I was a kid growing up, I. I was in little league, and that was the day that we marched in the parade in town. Why were we marching in the parade? I don’t know. That’s just what we did every year. And so it was fun. Yeah, it was, it was fun. You know, there’s, the firefighters would throw out candy and, you know, we’d, we’d be just having a great time.
And, um, yeah, there was American flags and there was a military theme around the parade. Um, but as a young kid, I didn’t really know what it was for. [00:25:00] Um, you know, it wasn’t until it became real and it hit home, uh, in, in our family that, um, that I really started to understand the true meaning of, of the day.
And, um, you know, even, even when I was serving in the military, um, you know, it, it didn’t have as much of a meaning as it did, uh, afterwards. And you’re right. I think there, there needs to be more, uh, more knowledge, more awareness, and more work to be done to help continue the. The legacy of the people who have served and sacrificed themselves, um, and make sure that that sacrifice is not forgotten, uh, as as we move forward.
Debbie, could you talk to us a little bit about, uh, the inspiration behind founding America’s Mighty Warriors and, and the work that you guys are doing to help [00:26:00] improve the lives of gold star families and, and military families?
Debbie Lee: You bet. I think for me, the, the main, um, factor that started to get me in that direction was we had tons of support between when we were notified and the funeral and, um, after the funeral.
I live here in Arizona, so I’m not near the military base where Mark’s teammates were at. They, a lot of them were still in Iraq anyway, but, um, I was all alone. I’ve been a widow for almost 29 years. And so the, for me, the journey of the beginning of grief was just starting and I was all alone and it sucked.
I’m not one of those people that’s gonna feel sorry for myself or boohoo and just lay around and cry all day. What good would that do? Wouldn’t bring Mark back, but I purposed that the next person, I would be there for them. That was a gold star mom or family member that I would walk alongside them. I had no idea it would only be seven weeks after Mark passed that we lost Mike Monsour, a [00:27:00] teammate of his who fell under grenade and was posthumously ordered, awarded the Medal of Honor.
But, um, I went to support that family. I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I hadn’t started a foundation yet, but just knew how important it was to have someone else there who understood. Mm-hmm. You know, and for them to see she’s still alive. She made it because there were times literally, I felt like I wasn’t gonna survive.
Not only did my heart hurt emotionally, It hurt physically. And so I went there to support them. I would just happen to be in Washington DC when another one of our seals came in with his face blown off, or another one came in with legs blown off at a different time. I live in Arizona, you don’t just happen to be in Washington dc.
And so I started to see that God is probably orchestrating my steps. And then Mark’s amazing last letter home that he wrote about two and a half weeks before he was killed. And he talks about lots of amazing things in there. And I encourage all your listeners to go to our w[email protected] and read that powerful letter.
But one of the thing he talks about is do a more random [00:28:00] acts of kindness. He said, wouldn’t you pay for a stranger’s cup of coffee or meal or tank of gas and how we could change our world and our reputation as a country if we do those things. So I started doing those things. I could afford to buy a meal.
You know, coffee, a tank of gas. Tanks of gas were a lot cheaper back then. Excuse me. My allergies are so bad. But, um, you know, I could do that to honor Mark, right? And then, um, you know, finally realized God had a new purpose for me through the pain that I did have a new passion. And that’s when we started Americas Mighty Warriors to be able to support all of our troops that are still serving all of our veterans, all of our other Gold star families.
And it’s our honor to be able to do that. We do retreats in Texas for our gold Star families. We have a house in Arizona and one in Florida where they can come stay for free and we pay for their airfare and their travel costs to do that. And we do a big dinner before the Army-Navy game. We’ve sent out Christmas ornaments at different times to Gold Star families.
Just things to be able to remind them that will never forget your [00:29:00] hero and we won’t forget you. Um, our biggest program right now is probably our Helping Heroes Heal program that’s for our veterans with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury. Many of them struggling with suicide. We’re paying for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, hormone and supplement therapy.
So things that are actually healing them. So many of the treatments and, and medications they’re taking right now are just masking the symptoms. It’s not healing them. And that’s what we chose to do to be able to do that. Um, a lot of advocacy and education, you’ll find us up on Capitol Hill, you know, find for, uh, benefits, you know, used to be when we were more, um, active and more rules of engagement, those type of things.
But we’re currently fighting, trying to pass the legislation. So the hyperbaric is something that’s standard for all of our
Scott DeLuzio: veterans. Yeah. And that, that’s, I, I did some research on the hyperbaric, uh, chamber and the type of things that, that it can improve in addition to, uh, mental health conditions like TBIs and, and things like that [00:30:00] where, um, it just has such a profound impact on the people who use that treatment.
Um, but it’s just not easily accessible. So this type of work is super important that you are doing. Yeah. Um, And you mentioned something earlier too, about how you were in Washington and, uh, another Navy Seal came home. He had his, you know, the, these terrible injuries. And, you know, it, it’s more the Gold Star families I, I think, are a hundred percent super important, absolutely need, uh, that type of support.
But there’s, um, there’s also those, the wounded warriors who come home with those, those injuries and, uh, different things that are going on with them that they need the support as well. Uh, it’s a, it is a different kind of loss, you know, your l loss of mobility or independence or different things like that.
But there, there’s another kind of loss and it’s, uh, not celebrated or [00:31:00] commemorated or, uh, you know, there’s not a special day marked out for that, uh, for other people to, uh, stop and pause and reflect on this the way Memorial Day, uh, has. But it, it’s a. It, it’s just a, a thing that we don’t do a very good job at.
I think, uh, once when people come home, we don’t provide the support that they need. The, the needed support, I should say. There’s support out there, but it may not be the type of stuff that they actually need. Uh, you know, you’re just throwing right. Prescription drugs and things like that at a problem.
It’s not necessarily getting it better, it’s just masking symptoms. Um, so Right. So the work that you do, um, in addition to supporting the gold, gold star families, um, you know, getting out there and, uh, getting out on Capitol Hill and, and raising awareness for different things, I think it’s super important as well.
And, um, you know, when I hear you talking about what you do, um, it [00:32:00] just reminds me of the resilience that’s needed to be able to continue and make the best of a bad situation. I mean, I, I guarantee you with. Ha not knowing anything about you, which I do know a little bit about you, but had I not known anything about you, I guarantee you would move heaven and earth to get mark back if you could, if that was a possibility.
But, you know, we all know that that’s not, and, but you’re not letting that just bring you down and right. Sinking you into this dark hole where that you can never get out of. You’re, you’re making the best of this bad situation and, and you’re here now, uh, talking about all this advocacy work. Um, you know, and, and you have been to Capitol Hill several times.
You’ve, um, you know, all these resources that are available or, or will be available in the future are because of the work that you and people like you are doing. And, and without that resiliency, without that [00:33:00] ability to bounce back, none of this would be happening or being pushed in that right direction.
Debbie Lee: I tell people, excuse me, I’m so sorry with allergies, Um, I tell people all the time that you or I had no choice the news that was given to us the day that we were notified of the death, right? Um, but we do have a choice. How we respond and to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself would not have brought Mark back.
You know, the stress that’ll physically make you sick, you know, nobody stink wants to be around you. And that’s not the way that God wired me. So, you know, we all have, no matter what our circumstances, whether it’s your health, whether it’s your finances, whether it’s relationships, whether it’s loss, you do have a choice how you respond in the midst of that.
And so I think that’s why it’s so important for us then to choose not with our feelings, cuz we sure didn’t feel like we wanted to get up and go do something. But with our will, our mind is so strong and we can take that and say, okay, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna go exercise today. [00:34:00] I’m not gonna lay in bed all day and grieve and cry.
I’m gonna get up and do something. And in the beginning I made myself do that. I said, just get up and walk to the end of the driveway. I had a pretty short driveway. I don’t know if it was 25 feet long, but that was overwhelming at me, that ti that time just to get outta bed. And so by doing that, I’d pushed myself and then the next day I’m play walk a little farther.
So I’d walk to the end of the street, which is only two houses over, not like it was a big deal. I walked five miles a day every day. I don’t go to bed now if I haven’t walked mile miles a day. And so you can choose to do those things. When I did that, I have the benefit of the endorphin that’s released.
Maybe not when you’re only walking 25 feet to the end of your driveway, but when you do a good physical workout, there’s a feel good endorphin that does make you feel better. You, you know, you wanna get up, you get out in the sunshine. You know, I always tell people, go serve somebody else. Do something for somebody else.
Don’t continue to focus inward if you’re struggling with things, and then wake up every morning and find one [00:35:00] thing to be grateful for. You’ll find if you do that before your feet hit the ground, it changes your attitude the rest of the day, and you’ll find other things even in the midst of your struggles.
That you can be
Scott DeLuzio: grateful for such an incredible message. Um, I, I really do appreciate you taking the time to come on and share that message with us and for coming back on the show. Um, really, I’m, I’m so thankful that you have been here to be a part of this special episode for Memorial Day.
I want to introduce my next guest, uh, Tony Price from the Gold Star Ride Foundation. I had Tony on the podcast last year in, uh, episode 1 98, uh, and he talked about the foundation and I wanted to invite him back onto the show for the special Memorial Day episode to talk about the Gold Star Ride Foundation and his thoughts on supporting Gold Star families.
So welcome back Tony. I glad to have you here. Well, it’s my
Tony Price: pleasure to be here. I’m glad we could actually work this out, this out [00:36:00]
Scott DeLuzio: because, you know. Yeah, absolutely. And, uh, my favorite thing
Tony Price: to talk about is the Gold Star Ride Foundation
Scott DeLuzio: work that we do. Well then this is a perfect opportunity to, to get you to talk about it.
Cause that’s what we talk about. You’re,
Tony Price: uh, um, you bring the, the most unique, uh, mix of all, all the different people that I talk to, all the different podcasts because you are yourself a gold star. So that, that brings Absolutely. You have a special flavor of, of what we get to bring into the conversation.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And, and that’s I think why I appreciate so much what stuff like you and there’s other people out there doing similar things for Gold Star families. I appreciate so much what you guys are doing because, you know, there are gold star families out there who they, not only did they lose their loved one, like, you know, all of us have, but they’ve lost so much more.
They lost their, their source of income. They lost their, uh, potentially housing and they lost so many different things. [00:37:00] All those things happen in that whole process. One of the,
Tony Price: you know, that’s not uncommon for us to. Help pay the bills? I’ll, I’ll just put it that way. Uh, because, uh, one of the things that Sure we’ve come to, to learn that we, that we’ve learned is that, uh, gold star families in particular.
And, and I guess I really can’t say anything about any other types of families cuz I don’t work with any of the other ones. But, uh, one of the things that I’ve learned is that if they need a helping hand, that’s all they want is a helping hand. They want just a, you know what, uh, they’re struggling this week, but they’re not gonna be struggling next week.
So they just want that little helping hand to get ’em through the week. And they don’t want, uh, anybody to parade ’em around as, uh, they don’t want anybody to feel sorry for ’em. Uh, they want their loved one to be remembered. Every, you know, you want your brother to be remembered, just like Right. Uh, all the gold stars they want, uh, their.
The fallen hero [00:38:00] to be remembered, but they don’t want anything much more than that. They don’t want a lot of pomp and circumstance. They, so one of the things that we’ve learned how to do in the five years that we’ve been working is, uh, provide those things while maintaining the dignity that the family really wants.
Um, it it, right. And sometimes that’s, uh, uh, hard to walk that line. But, uh, you know, that’s one of the things that we do. Um, and, and I often want to get the gold star families that I get to go meet. Uh, and why I haven’t met you in person yet. I’m not really sure. I don’t know what part of the country you’re in.
Isn’t it weird?
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. I’m in, I’m in, uh, the, the Phoenix, Arizona area. I was scroll down there. I know last time we talked to you. I’m just, you’ve been through, so I mean, uh, I
Tony Price: am through Phoenix. Um, I, I think I’ve been through Phoenix five or six times. So [00:39:00] why we haven’t met yet? Uh, I’m not really sure, but we’ll make it
Scott DeLuzio: happen one of these days.
Tony Price: we meet, uh, I may ask the American Legion or the vfw or the Amvets or um, whatever what, whatever fraternity is in the neighborhood, I might ask them to come out and help me support you in whatever thing it is that you need for that moment. But, uh, uh, we, we do it with Delicate gloves. So, you know, we we’re, we’re not about trying to embarrass anybody, you know, we’re just get as many people as we can to remember the fallen hero, and then we kind of quietly go off and whatever helping hand is needed is, is whatever helping hand is
Scott DeLuzio: needed.
Right. And, and that’s, I think, the key aspect of what the Gold Star Ride Foundation is all about. It’s, it’s going out there and providing [00:40:00] support where it’s needed, when it’s needed to. The families of the fallen heroes who are, are not here to be able to, and, and I’m pick up that Slack. And so you, you guys come around and that’s an important thing that you guys do is, is help out those families in that way.
Tony Price: Yes. And uh, you know, I don’t, I don’t mind saying that, uh, remembering the fallen hero is the number one thing on their list. Ev every family that we visit, number one thing on their list, as long as they’re a legitimate family. Cuz believe it or not, I still get a phone call from people once in a while who say, yeah, I’m a gold star family, but they’re really not.
And when I say they’re really not, I mean Right. They’re not even related to anybody who ever served in the military. Uh, I, you know, Because they’re just looking for that hand. That’s unfortunate rules of what the DD calls a gold star. And, and I think we talked about that in episode. Was it 1 98? Is that what you So we talked more in, in more depth than that one.
So anybody who really wants to find out how [00:41:00] fast and loose we play at the rules, they can go back to 1 98. Uh, so yeah, when it, when it come, that’s the number one thing that we’re doing is helping that family make sure that the fallen hero’s name is never forgotten. That’s number one on our list.
Scott DeLuzio: And, and, and that, that’s such an important thing, and especially on a day like Memorial Day, where that’s what this day is all about, is remembering those people who, who fought and served our, our country, they sacrificed their lives, they sacrificed their futures, they sacrificed so much.
Yeah. For all of us. It seems like the very least we could do is just remember that, and remember,
Tony Price: and you mind me making a little, uh, opining here. This is a, a purely please personal viewpoint. Okay. Uh, you know, one of the things that has become tradition with the Memorial Day is everybody wants to go have the backyard barbecue and eat hot hotdogs and watch baseball and, and do those kinds of things.
And, uh, uh, in recent years, there’s been an awful lot of [00:42:00] movement toward, hold on a second. It’s not about hotdogs and baseball. It’s about remembering the fallen heroes. And while that is true, this is my personal, uh, opining that I wanted to throw out there. I don’t, and you could probably, you can e you can either agree with me on this or you can educate me on this, but I believe that every fallen hero that we are supposed to be remembering on Memorial Day, every single one of them, put their life on the line first so that the rest of us could have a better life.
And, uh, this is laughter is a big, big deal. And, and I do my best to make sure that every gold star family that I visit at least cracks a smile. If I can’t get ’em to laugh out loud, at least I w I want ’em to at least crack a smile. And that’s the reason why, because nobody would give up their life so that their family could have it miserable so that, um Right.
You, you know, they don’t want and, and they [00:43:00] didn’t want it when they were alive, and I’m sure they don’t want it now that they’re not alive anymore. They didn’t sign up for you to be miserable. They signed up for you to have it better. And like I said before, you can either That’s right. Me or agree with me.
Scott DeLuzio: No, I am, I’m gonna a hundred percent agree with that. Um, I know just thinking about my brother mm-hmm. Um, you know, he was the type of person he walked in the room and, and everybody, the room just got better and like everyone was happy. Every like, Hey, Steve’s here. And, and it is just a, a great time. Right.
Um, Yeah, the Memorial Day. Celebrate, you know, obviously remember, honor those people who gave their lives, but celebrate as well. Have fun. Enjoy the day off. Enjoy the, the time that you have with family and friends and whoever’s in your life, whoever’s in your neighborhood, or, you know, just happens to be there at the time.
Have hamburgers and hot dogs, if that’s what you want to do. One of my favorite things. Do beer with some friends or something, or, or whatever it’s, you want, you know.
Tony Price: Anyway, [00:44:00] uh, uh, Memorial Day for me. Uh, I’m gonna do my best to enjoy the entire day. I think I have to ride about 465 miles on Memorial Day.
Uh, and I know nobody cares. About me riding miles and nobody cares that, you know, these flags are all ripped up and stuff because I’ve been in so many parades and these flags have been on the back of my motorcycle and, and nobody cares about that stuff. And I, I get that and I understand that. But uh, Memorial Day is the day after the M I A P O W demonstration against our nation’s capital.
Uh, and I’m sure you’ve talked about that. And that’s not my organization. It’s not my thing. I just go there and participate with that. Um, but I do have some good rides coming up and I would like to extend an invitation to anybody on two wheels. Or even if you just have a convertible, put the top down.
You might have to get wet cuz we ride in the rain. But, uh, you know, we’re gonna make you, if you’re coming in a convertible, we’re gonna make you keep the top down the whole time. No, of course. I’m joking a little bit about that, but we do [00:45:00] have some pretty good rides coming up. Um, When I get home from Memorial Day, it’ll be somewhere around June 10th.
And, and here’s the one I’ll talk about. On the last Saturday in June, I think it’s June 24th, uh, will be the one and only Gold Star Ride Foundation, laugh Ride. That’s our one and only foundation, or excuse me, that’s our one and only fundraiser, uh, for the year. And this year we have it set up. We’re gonna leave Bloomington, Minnesota, and we are gonna ride somewhere in the neighborhood of 509 miles and have lunch.
And then we’re gonna turn around and come back. And then we’re gonna have a welcome home party at the end of the whole thing. So Saturday night, June 24th, be the Welcome Home Party. The bar is called The Full Tilt. It’s at the corner of Highway one hundred and four ninety four in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Most of your listeners probably aren’t anywhere near there, so they don’t know where that is. Uh, but that’s where we’re gonna be, uh, in our welcome home party. We’re currently planning to be back with all the motorcycles, uh, and we only have 25 motorcycles. But [00:46:00] all the, all 25 motorcycles are gonna come back after a thousand miles of riding, uh, sometime around 10 30 at night.
So it’d be great to have you for our welcome home party. Be great if you wanna come along on the ride too. Everybody who rides gets to earn an iron butt patch, a saddle sore 1000, which is what that that is right there. That’s a, I got that one four years ago. Uh, and we’re gonna get one of those again. So that’s what we’re doing on the 24th day of, of June this year.
And there’s a whole bunch of other stuff, but like I said, well, sounds great. People listening to your podcast, and again, you’re, you do such a great job with your podcast. I just, I, the, the, the vast, uh, scope of guests that you’re able to bring on and the subject matter that you can talk about, it’s, it’s pretty amazing to me.
Uh, so I want to thank you personally to, for the work that you’re doing, and the next time I’m in Phoenix, by golly, we’re gonna break bread and maybe tip a little
Scott DeLuzio: scotch together. Sounds great. [00:47:00] Well, thank, thanks again, Tony, for taking the time to come on the show, sharing a little bit about the Gold Star Ride Foundation and your thoughts on Memorial Day.
I want to introduce my next guest, uh, Thad Forrester. Thad was a guest on the show earlier this year in episode 2 46. Uh, but Thad like me, is a gold star brother. Um, his brother Mark was an Air Force combat controller and he was killed in action in Afghanistan. Um, he’s also the author of the book, my Brother in Arms and the host of the podcast, uh, Patriot to the Core.
So fad, welcome back to the show. Hey, thanks
Thad Forester: Scott. Good to be here.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Um, yeah, re really glad to have you here. Um, and. I want to talk in this episode, this special Memorial Day episode. I wanna talk a little bit about your family, your brother, how he’s impacted you, and the meaning of Memorial Day [00:48:00] to you and your family.
Um, but first, as the host of the podcast, Patriot to the Core. I have to imagine that you’re a fairly patriotic guy. Um, did, did Mark’s service or his sacrifice influence your patriotism at all? And, and if it did, how did those carry, uh, how did you carry those lessons that you learned from him, uh, through what you’re doing today?
Thad Forester: Yeah, yeah. No doubt that his service and then his sacrifice affected my patriotism and my outward expression of our, you know, of my, my love. Of our country and our freedoms. I just hadn’t thought about it much, Scott, just like a lot of people and probably many that, that listen maybe is it just, it, they just, I felt like it didn’t really apply.
Um, I’d never been impacted personally, I didn’t think. And so, yeah, I realized that the [00:49:00] price of freedom is great and it, it’s, it came with blood and comes with blood by many, many people. And I was raised in a, a school where we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning we stood and said it, and I appreciate that.
Um, I never realized until much later on in my life that that doesn’t always happen. It’s probably becoming less and less frequent now. And, uh, the thanks to Mark’s example, I, I, I definitely have a much more appreciation and I, I feel such a sense of gratitude and, and, and being fortunate to. Have the freedoms that we have in our country and to show tremendous, um, I guess, appreciation to the many people who serve and have served our
Scott DeLuzio: country too.
Yeah, I, I mean, I had to imagine that, uh, just based on the, the name of your podcast that you were a fairly [00:50:00] patriotic guy, and I, I, I was just curious to see how that influenced it. And, and you’re right. Um, before you are in that position, uh, before like our, either of our families were in that position where, uh, we lost a loved one.
It was just something that you don’t think about. That’s something that happens to other people. And you, that, that was my experience anyways, is, you know, you hear about something on the news, it’s sad, um, but you know, it’s just a thing that happens and, um, you know, you don’t think about it too much, uh, until it happens to your family.
Um, and, and then. It becomes all the more tragic. Um, now with this episode being a special Memorial Day, uh, episode, I wanna talk about Memorial Day. So what does Memorial Day actually mean to you and your family and what do you guys typically do to commemorate the, the day? Um, you know, is, is it the typical, [00:51:00] uh, you know, backyard barbecue type thing?
Or do you guys do something special to honor and remember Mark and his service?
Thad Forester: Yeah, it’s, it’s the typical cookout kind of thing. Uh, we like to involve a swimming pool somewhere, cause that’s when the pool’s usually open officially. And, but you know, we haven’t changed how we do Memorial Day much. The only difference really is, is uh, we, I think, I think we take time to remember Mark and to do something like, Memorial pushups, which I talk about in my book.
It’s definitely very common in the, in the, for sure, in the combat control community. Uh, or do something for me. I’ll have to do something strenuous. It’s a long r it’s some kind of workout, some kind of hero wide whatever. It, it could be something, um, service related. But so we pretty much do the same thing.
We just have added a little bit, a little something in there to remember Mark and the others. And also, it obviously is [00:52:00] different now too, because I understand a little more about what Memorial Day is and, and, and that it’s, you know, that it’s, it’s more than a three day weekend. I, I’ve got a bill here, my, my water bill.
Um, they always put a note in here like, happy Easter, Merry Christmas, that kind of thing, whatever the month is, and they’ve got Happy Memorial Day. And I don’t make a big deal about that. I mean, I, I don’t, you know, you and I know that’s not really the most appropriate thing to say, but you know, I don’t get Ben outta shape over it at all.
Most people just don’t know. But I, I, that’s something I wouldn’t say now is I would not say Happy Memorial Day.
Scott DeLuzio: Right. I, I, I think growing up that was something that we did say. Um, and I know as you know, from my experience growing up, uh, I played baseball as a kid in Little League and, uh, we got to march in the, the town parades, uh, in our, you know, baseball u uh, uniforms.
And we, we march around in the Memorial Day Parade, but to me that was what Memorial Day was back then. It was a day office day off from uh, [00:53:00] school. We got to march around in the parades. We went back home and we had, you know, backyard barbecue kind of thing. And, um, that’s, that was what Memorial Day was.
And it wasn’t until much later in life, like you said, like that I actually learned what their actual meaning was. And I, I think I. Things like that sentiment that you, you just mentioned there. Happy Memorial Day. It’s, it’s definitely not a happy occasion, um, you know, given the sacrifices that, that go into it.
However, um, I will say that I do believe that any one of the people who have sacrificed themselves for this country, uh, they want us, the people who are left behind, they want us to be happy. You know, they, they don’t mm-hmm. They’re not out there. Yeah. Um, uh, you know, fighting and, and sacrificing themselves for their loved ones [00:54:00] to be sad and miserable and upset.
And, and I, I’m not disagreeing with you at all in terms of that sentiment. Cause I, I, I agree actually that it’s kind of a, an odd thing to say when you think about what the, the day actually is. But, um, you know, it’s not a day in my mind to, to just be, uh, You know, sad and depressed and, and feeling hopeless.
And grief. Yeah. Grief stricken and, and all that. It, it’s a day to honor, to remember and enjoy the freedoms, enjoy the, the opportunities that we have available to us. And I think that’s, uh, to me anyways, that’s, that’s the biggest thing. I, I don’t know, maybe you have a different take on it. Mm-hmm. No, but
Thad Forester: I’ll say that my, the very first Memorial Day after Mark was killed, so it would’ve been 2011, I was in the grocery store that morning and I saw the newspaper and it had on the front page, it, it was talking about Memorial Day, and it had a picture of my brother, and I was not expecting that.
And so that hit me pretty hard. I think it [00:55:00] just caught me off guard. Sure. And I was like, wow, okay. This is, this is real and this is why, this is what, why we have Memorial Day to remember
Scott DeLuzio: guys like him. You know, I, I had a very similar experience with just the. Extreme volume of news reporters and whether it’s television, radio, uh, newspapers, that just, all these people coming out to, uh, share this story about my brother.
Uh, I don’t know if you had a similar experience like that, but, um, but to me it’s like, you know, you sometimes you, when there’s a, a death in the family, a a loved one, it’s, it’s a more, much more private occasion. But in this case, it was completely public. It was out there for the whole world to see. Um, and that I was not prepared for.
Was that, was that your experience as well? Yes. Yes.
Thad Forester: In fact, now you had a lot, I’ve read your book and you definitely had a lot right up [00:56:00] front. I didn’t have as much as you did, but at least not initially. But I will say, Scott, that that whole period, cuz there was like a over a week’s period from his death when the funeral was.
And I just wanted some, a long time. It’s a quiet time, and I wanted some time with him, so I had to go to the funeral home the morning of the funeral. I called the director up early and I went up there early, early, early and just sat with Mark’s body and had my own time with him because I was just dying for some, you know, some peace and, and quiet and, and I, and certainly appreciate everyone’s support.
But, um, yeah, I mean, it’s, it, it can be overwhelming right, when you’ve got the death of an active duty going on
Scott DeLuzio: and all the media around it. Yeah, for sure. Well, that, thank you so much for coming on, uh, this, this special edition of, uh, drive on and, um, and sharing your family’s experience and your story and, um, you know, talking a little bit about Mark and, uh, giving us the opportunity to honor him and, and his memory as well.
Um, I really do appreciate it. [00:57:00] I’m glad to, really glad to have you a part of this special episode.
I wanna introduce our next guest, uh, Tammy Pulaski. And Tammy is a gold star mother, having lost her son, Jeremiah Pulaski, on March 26th, 2011. And she’s also the president of the Arizona Department of the American Gold Star Mother’s Organization, which we’ll talk about a little bit more in a little bit.
Um, but first, Tammy, thank you so much for taking the time to come on and, and join me here.
Tammy Pulaski: Um, thank you for having me. I appreciate the, the res the interview. Yeah, absolutely.
Scott DeLuzio: Um, so first off, you know, families like ours, uh, having, uh, you know, lost loved ones in service to our country, um, We know pretty intimately and pretty deeply like the meaning of [00:58:00] Memorial Day.
It, it affects us obviously. Um, but part of Memorial Day is honoring and remembering the people who have sacrificed their lives in service to our country. Uh, and I want to take a minute to allow you to tell us a little bit about your son, uh, Jeremiah and the type of person and soldier that he was.
Tammy Pulaski: Yeah.
Um, my son Jeremiah was, um, I always knew he was gonna be in the military. I knew from the time he was really little, and I know a lot of moms say that about their boys because they all like to play war or with their guns or whatever. But, um, he always just excelled. He excelled in history. Anything that had to do with wars, he excelled in that area.
He was a tactician. He loved tactics. Um, when he was. A little bit older in his high school, he, um, joined a paintball team and in that team there was, they played [00:59:00] against a pro team and they were just playing around. It wasn’t a real event. And the pro team wanted him to join cuz he was such a tactician, you know, he, he was really good at what he did.
Um, later on, um, you know, we talk about no man left behind. Um, when he was a youth, he was in a youth group where they went up north and they, um, were hiking. It had to do with independence and, you know, being, um, team and all that. And they had this hike that they had to do. Well, there was a young lady who couldn’t make the hike.
She was giving out. She wasn’t gonna do the whole hike. And so he fell behind. He was in the front of the pack and he fell behind and walked behind her and the whole time encouraged her to, to get up that hill and get over the hill and, and make it. And she did. And he was last, but he was okay cuz she made it.
[01:00:00] And that’s the type of person he was. He was definitely, if he, if you were a part of him, if you were his friend, if you were his brother, if you were any family member, he had your back. He always had your back. Um, later on they did a e I B. Mm-hmm. I don’t know if you know what an EIP is. Yeah. But they did the E I B test and part of that e i B test is they have to march.
25 miles with full gear, full pack, and um, in eight hours and, um, nine miles in two hours. So he was ahead, he was very strong, very fit. He, that was not a problem for him. He was ahead of the pack and then one of, um, his brothers told him that one of the other brothers was following behind and they didn’t think he was gonna make it, that he was gonna get through.
And so again, he went back to the back and he, he followed along [01:01:00] with them and pushed him, you know, probably with a few strong words that they say back then, you know, but he pushed him. And, um, this young man passed his Z I B because of that. And we actually got a letter from the commander saying, what a impress how impressed they were with him, because he could have, he could have made it in.
A lot more time than what he did. Sure. So it was, it was great. Um, Jeremiah served in Afghanistan and he served in Iraq and he, um, at one point he was put in for a silver star for, um, basically saving his whole platoon. Um, he put his life on the line for him, and there’s a lot of them that are here today, um, with families, um, because of him.
Uh, we got the, they lowered it to a bronze with v with a Valor. Um, and we received that [01:02:00] Postmus Lee after he passed away. But he was, he was an amazing guy. Amazing, amazing
Scott DeLuzio: man. And it’s so amazing to hear these stories. I’ve talked to other Gold Star families and just hearing the stories of their loved ones, uh, the type of person that they were, um, the selflessness, um, you know, You easily, uh, when you’re talking about the e I b uh, tests that he was going through, and, uh, going through and doing your best at that, uh, without regard for the other people.
Like just focusing is a very easy thing to do. You can just have the blinders on and just focus on getting through yourself and, and not worry about, you know, everybody else getting through it. But, you know, he took that step back and, and went and helped that person to, uh, cross the finish line and get through that, uh, that person may not have had it in them to get through it on their own.
Um, you know, but then that selflessness kicked in [01:03:00] and, you know, saving his, his fellow soldiers, um, that is another, that’s another thing, you know, that, that just kicked in. That’s completely a selfless act. Right. Um, now with, with all of this, Uh, you know, to me these stories are, are great. Being able to hear these stories, uh, from people like you and other gold star families are, are great.
Um, but I want to be able to make sure that the legacy of this and the sacrifice of these, uh, fallen service members are not forgotten. And that the, the memory of these people continues so that it can serve as an inspiration for future generations. Uh, not saying that everybody needs to sign up to the military to be exactly like, uh, you know, the, the, you know, the, the top of the top of the top of everything, but the, that selflessness, the, the, that desire to go out and serve not only just your country, but [01:04:00] the the person to your left, to your, to your right that are out there to, uh, to complete a mission.
You know, how can we ensure that that legacy, uh, of, of these sacrifices in these stories, uh, continue.
Tammy Pulaski: Well, first of all, it’s really important to speak their name and it’s important to tell their stories. Um, a lot of people are afraid of talking even to myself or, or a loved one for fear that we’re gonna get upset or sad or whatever.
But it’s not like that. We love hearing stories about our loved ones and what they did, and, you know, sometimes we may shed a tear. We may, we may not. But it’s, it’s inspiring to know that others remember our loved ones. And secondly, I think it’s really important that we teach our youth that we, we go and make sure that our youth hear these stories, not just the history behind [01:05:00] that war, but the story behind the men and women who served in that war.
I think that’s super
Scott DeLuzio: important, right? I, I. Totally agree. Um, just after my, my brother was killed, that was one of the things that as a family, we decided we wanted to be the ones controlling the narrative and, and telling his story because mm-hmm. Um, we had news reporters, I’m sure you had things similar like this.
We had news reporters showing up and they wanted to cover the story, and they would cover the story one way or the other with or without us. Um, but if it was without us, they were probably gonna go to a random grocery store parking lot, talk to somebody who’s getting in their car with their groceries, who’s got ice cream melting in the trunk, who’s just gonna rush through a response and say, oh yeah, it’s sad, and oh, it’s terrible.
But that would be the end of it. And it’s not really the story. And so I, I agree with what you’re saying here. Getting that story out there, um, is, is important. So how would you want [01:06:00] Jeremiah to be remembered? Um, For the people out there who are listening, what would you tell people about him and what about what you want them to, to carry away, uh, about him.
Tammy Pulaski: mean, I want people to remember that he was a son, he was a brother, he was a grandson, he was a friend, he was a, a military brother. And he was loving, he, um, he was very patriotic. He believed in this country. Um, and he fought for this country for a reason. Um, I want people to know that he, um, he did what he loved and in the end, he wasn’t as happy about what he had to do.
But he did. He did it, and he did it with honor and pride and, um, he sacrificed for us, for all of us. And he, I just want people to remember all of them that this is something you sign [01:07:00] on that dotted line and you get, you know, they don’t
Scott DeLuzio: have to Exactly. Well, That, that’s a great takeaway, a great way to remember.
uh, we’re here with Tammy Pulaski, a gold star mother and the president of the Arizona Department of the American Gold Star Mothers Organization. So, uh, Tammy, could you tell us a little bit about the mission of American Gold Star Mothers and, uh, what it is that the organization does?
Tammy Pulaski: Well, I mean, they have a formal mission and I’m going, it’s long.
So I’m gonna tell you a little bit briefly about what that mission is. Um, for foremost is patriotism. So we wanna make sure that we teach and we, um, share our, our children and [01:08:00] our heroes in our military and do it with pride and honor. Um, We are also a veteran service organization. So we volunteer and we volunteer a lot for other organizations.
So we go, we just let people know we’re here to serve and you tell us what you want us to do and we’ll do it. So for instance, we’re gonna go to, um, the Flagstaff stand down, um, tomorrow, and we’re gonna just be there to help the veterans as they come in and serve them. And so that, that’s a great mission.
Um, the other part is to, um, remember our fallen, um, teach patriotism, inspire, respect the flag, and teach our youth about it. Um, support all goats, our mothers, and. Um, promote peace and goodwill. So [01:09:00] that’s a short version. Sure.
Scott DeLuzio: Well, you know, it, it’s, it’s a great mission because, you know, it, it takes into account more than what the, just the name entails, right?
The American Gold star mothers. You might hear that, and you might think, okay, well the only thing that they’re interested or concerned with is the gold star mothers. But there’s, there’s a bigger picture there, and I think you guys recognize that in your mission. And I noticed on the, uh, American Gold Star Mothers website, there’s a phrase that says, lean on me.
And this phrase reminded me of the Army infantry motto, follow me. Um, and both of those phrases in my mind anyways, uh, bring up the idea of like a leader who’s experienced challenging situations, but they step forward to guide others anyways. Um, as an, as an infantryman, I was an infantryman myself. And follow me, uh, Signifies like leading into battle, [01:10:00] facing the potential dangers and the hardships that that come along with going into battle.
Um, and in my interpretation, lean On Me carries a similar sentiment, uh, suggesting that the Gold Star Mothers yourself included, um, you understand the journey that potentially future Gold Star mothers will be going through, and you’re there to support them and guide them, uh, as they’re joining the ranks.
Uh, it’s a organization, or not an organization, but it’s a, uh, you know, a club if you will, that nobody wants to be a, a member of, but you kind of get forced into it when your loved one passes away. Um, can you share your thoughts on that significance of, of Lean On Me and the role in, uh, supporting the Gold Star Mothers in your organization?
Tammy Pulaski: Sure. So, um, lean on me actually to me has two meanings. It’s not just for other Gold [01:11:00] star mothers, which it is. We lean on each other and, and, um, this, my group of ladies that I am with, I love them. Adore ’em. I don’t know what I would do without ’em. We share our children. We, we share each other and experiences and when we meet each other, we’re there for each other.
But the other part of Lean On Me is the part of what we do for veterans, because veterans go through in service many things that is challenging and difficult. And we have wounded warriors that come back in many ways. It could be, uh, wounded warriors physically, it could be wounded warriors, um, P T S D.
Tbi. There’s other, um, ways that they come back. And so for us, we want to be able to be there and allow them to lean on us so that we can support them and help them and guide them and get them through [01:12:00] whatever it is that they need to
Scott DeLuzio: get through. Yeah, that’s incredible. Um, that people like yourself, uh, who have suffered such a tremendous loss.
I mean, no parent should ever have to bury their child. Um, but you have suffered through this loss, but yet you’re still strong enough to be there and tell other people who need help to lean on you for that assistance, whether, whether it’s another gold star family, whether it’s a veteran, whether you know, whoever it is, there are people out there who need the help that you’re, you’re finding the strength.
Uh, to be able to go out there and do that. Um, and that’s, to me, that’s, it’s incredible that there are people like, like you and, and others who are like you out there who are able to do that, who have that, um, that strength in order to stand up and, and support those other people. Um, now just switching gears just a a little bit here, um, [01:13:00] grief is something that all gold star families share.
They, they understand grief. They know grief. They’ve all been there. Um, but not everyone copes with it in the same way. Um, in your experience with dealing with other, uh, gold star families, what are some of the challenges, or maybe in your own experience, what are some of the challenges that some of these families face?
And, and is there something that, uh, that you guys do in your organization to address some of these challenges?
Tammy Pulaski: Well, I kinda already spoke on, on one of them, you know, um, my son, uh, died 12 years ago, but I still talk about him all the time. Um, one of those challenges is people tend to think, oh my goodness, it’s been 12 years, isn’t it time for her to pass on or not pass on, but um, move forward.
Sure. And I’m always moving forward, but we never forget our children. They [01:14:00] will always be a piece of us and just like our child that is alive and we brag about and talk about the same thing with that person that is, has gone on. Um, the other challenge is, um, I’m sorry. Oh, I know, I’m sorry. I had to think.
Um, just knowing what a gold star mom is, um, Too often I’ll tell somebody I’m a gold star mom, and they’ll say, oh, great, that’s wonderful. You know, not really realizing what a gold star mom is. And of course I have to educate them. Um, too often people don’t really get it. They don’t know what gold star means.
So that’s the other challenge we face. Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: And that is a challenge, that it’s not just the general public who has no military affiliation whatsoever, uh, who of course there are people in the general public who do have that issue. Um, but there’s people who, even in the military, sometimes [01:15:00] they, they don’t know what a gold star family is until they’ve been affected by the loss of a, uh, you know, a fellow brother or sister in arms, uh, who.
Then they’re exposed to that, um, that, that term, that phrase, um, even, even people, um, my, my father, uh, he was, he was traveling, uh, and he, I’m not gonna name names and say who it was, but there was a, uh, well known senator who he happened to meet in a, in an airport and he asked, asked my dad about what the, the pin was on his, uh, jacket.
And he said, well, I’m a gold star father. And he said, well, congratulations. And my dad, my dad was like, I don’t know how I can correct this guy. It just was such an awkward moment. But, um, you know, it was, it was just like a, you know, one of these, these situations where like, these people probably should have known better.
And that’s part of why we want to have this episode and share [01:16:00] stories like yours, uh, your family’s loss, um, the work that your organization is doing, um, and. And sh just basically sharing what a Gold Star family is. It’s, it’s the f the families of, uh, the fallen service members who, who have died in, in service to our country.
And that’s, I mean, it, it’s very simple, but it’s not a Oh, congratulations, kind of thing. None of us want to be mm-hmm. Included in this, you know? Mm-hmm. But it, it is what it is. And, and we’re, we are there. And, you know, at the end of the day, um, you know, we, we have to support each other and that’s, you know, exactly what you guys are doing.
And it’s, it’s really wonderful, uh, the work that you do.
Thanks for tuning into this special Memorial Day episode. I want to thank everyone who took the time to join me in this episode and to W T S M for giving me the [01:17:00] opportunity to share this episode and all future episodes of Drive on Through their station. Those of you who are new to this show, again, I want to thank you for checking it out.
I hope this episode was enjoyable and informative. Going forward, our episodes are going to cover topics that are of interest to service members, veterans, and their loved ones. The tragedy when those people feel like all hope is lost or that they have no place left to turn, like they’ve tried every option available to them and nothing seems to be working for them.
This show is going to share stories from other veterans who have gone through difficult times and found their way to a better life. We also will have interviews with folks who represent organizations that are dedicated to helping veterans. The topics will vary from episode to EV episode, but they’ll include things like mental health, career and educational resources, physical health and other things that.[01:18:00]
May just not be all that well known. Other resources that people maybe just don’t know about, and the goal is to provide hope to those who feel like all hope is lost. The show is going to air on Saturdays and Sundays on w tsm tv.com, and it will also continue to exist on Drive On Podcast dot com or wherever you listen to podcasts.
I also wanna remind you of a few resources that we talked about in this episode. First, if you want to support the Gold Star Ride Foundation, go to gold star ride.org, and on their homepage, they have a link to their donation page. You can also donate to America’s Mighty [email protected].
Remember, their mission is to honor the sacrifices of our troops of veterans gold star families by providing programs that improve the quality of life, resiliency and recovery for those families. You can also read Mark Lee’s last letter home, where he asks for more [01:19:00] random acts of kindness to change our country and our reputation as a country, which I don’t think is a half bad idea.
Finally, you can learn more about American Goldstar [email protected]. Thank you again to all of the guests who made this episode so special, and to you, the audience for joining us today. Thank you. 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.