Episode 347 Laura Herzog Honoring Our Fallen Supporting Military Families Transcript

This transcript is from episode 347 with guest Laura Herzog.

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.

Hey everybody, welcome back to Drive On. Uh, I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And today my guest is Laura Herzog. Uh, Laura is the founder and executive director of Honoring Our Fallen, a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to serving our nation’s fallen and the families, uh, that these heroes have left behind.

And we’re going to talk about the organization and what they do and how they help, um, honor the fallen, uh, and, and help out the families who are, are left behind. But first I want to welcome you to the show, Laura. I’m really glad to have you here.

Laura Herzog: Thank you. Thank You for having me. It’s an honor.

Scott DeLuzio: You bet. Um, [00:01:00] so for the listeners who maybe aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you, uh, got into this organization?

Laura Herzog: So, I, um, my career was in human resources management, and then I did manage a local newspaper and I started as a contracted, 2 year contracted position at the base as a public affairs officer, community relations, um, here, um. And I, uh, my life was forever changed on the 10th of November, 2009. And even someone who worked at the base and had watched hundreds and thousands of soldiers, airmen, Marine sailors deploy, come home, meet their babies.

For the first time, I had never sat in the living room with a mom that had just been told that her son was dead and never coming home. And that was on the 10th of November, 2009, the Marine Corps birthday. And, um, I just saw that there was a need and, um. And, and God showed me that it was my calling. And [00:02:00] here we are 13 years later.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, I think it’s an important calling. I’m, I’m a gold star brother, uh, myself. And so I, my brother was killed in Afghanistan 20, 2010. Um, yeah, no. And, and it’s, um, it’s one of those things where, um, you know, you get support from your family, friends, the community. Um, a lot of times it’s, From the other Gold Star families that I’ve, I’ve talked to and gotten to know over the years, a lot of times the support that you get is really intense right around the initial passing of your loved one, whoever that may be in your case.

And I don’t mean intense in a bad way, it’s, there’s an outpouring of support, uh, in that, those initial first,

Laura Herzog: Well, it, it,

Scott DeLuzio: of weeks, right? But then it,

Laura Herzog: intense,

Scott DeLuzio: but then it drops off a lot of times, right?

Laura Herzog: So [00:03:00] that goes to, so I’ve studied death and grief and I’m still continuing my education in grief and trauma. I have my own journey of trauma, um, throughout my life. Um, and, and what it is is, um, there’s, there’s books written about it. So there’s givers and there’s. Um, people that were your friends, that you thought were your best friend.

And this doesn’t even have to be a military death. I mean, those viewers that are watching this, this can be in your own community, in your own family nucleus. Your friends. People are taught by their parents. They’re taught by those who raised them. They’re taught by their community as they were growing up how to grieve.

And every, everyone is different and, and everyone’s grief is different. Um, and, and you’re Right.

that initial thing and, and everybody just wants to come in and help. And there’s that are those, there’s those that are going [00:04:00] inundate you with food on your front door and those that are gonna send you all these books and flowers up all over the place.

And then there’s those that you. Sometimes, sadly, those that you, that you were the closest with that will disappear because they don’t know how to help you. They don’t want to say the wrong thing. They don’t want to do the wrong thing. And so they, they’re absent. Um, and yeah, that, that definitely. And then, then like you said, once all the services are done, all the funeral services are done, your loved one is laid to rest, then they go back to business as usual and you’re left reeling in In your new reality, in your loss, and, um, they, they’re back to, you know, life, work, kids, and, and everything else.

And, and they don’t know, and, and in, in their defense, a lot of times they don’t know what to do. They, they, they see you having a good day, so they don’t want to bring it up because they don’t want to set off the trigger. So it’s definitely, it’s [00:05:00] a very, very difficult, grief is hard.

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Yeah. It is hard. And, and I think the, the point here is that, you know, we, we do get a lot of support. Sometimes that support We’ll, we’ll start to fade off. Not, not in every case. So you may have some people who still check in with you and maybe want to, you know, provide some sort of support over time. But, um, I think that’s maybe where organizations like, uh, Honoring Our Fallen can, I don’t want to say you’re not filling in the gaps of, you know, friends and family and things like that, but knowing that someone’s there to.

to help, uh, you know, in, in these times of need, [00:07:00] um, I think is, is important to know that there is some sort of support available. Um, could you tell us a little bit about the, the support and the services and, and things like that, that, uh, Honoring Our Fallen provides to the families of these, these fallen, uh, Service members.


Laura Herzog: support comes in initially through the casualty officer in support, supporting the family during the dignified arrival of the funeral and the burial and then continued, um, programs. Um, there’s many great organizations out there, um, that like, like us, you know, there’s, there’s a, a, a group of, of organizations out there and I’ll start with TAPS.

So TAPS, the National Nonprofit Organization, um, that. That has the resources, so you can, the families have a 24 hour hotline if they need someone to talk to. Then there’s, you know, um, many other organizations out there like us that hold retreats that, [00:08:00] um, have different events throughout the year. There’s the Army SOS program, which is an Army contractor program, SOS, Survivor Outreach Services.

Then there’s the Navy Gold Star program. There’s, um, Angels, um, there’s, there’s Tunnels to Towers. That helps with, you know, homes. There’s, um, Angels of the Fallen that will help, um, for extracurricular things for the kids. There’s Believe With Me that send Christmas presents. There’s Soldier’s Child.

There’s all, there’s the Gary Sinise Foundation that took over Snowball Express. So there’s all of us out there and. And what this is and why am I from honoring our fellow and bringing up all these other nonprofits is because it’s a community where it, you know, and, and it goes back to answer your original question, Scott, which was, was that, how do we, you brought up the, you use the word one thing, fill in the gaps, right?

And, and we can’t bring your. Ooh, this gets me every time I say it. We can’t bring your loved one back. Like, we [00:09:00] can’t bring your brother back. We can’t, we can’t take the pain away. But what we can do is honoring our fallen and all the other non profits that are out there that are actively serving the Gold Star families and the surviving families of our nation’s fallen.

Um, those that lost in combat, not in combat. And those, those like us in Tunnels for Towers and others, um, I even saw that Gary Sinise is adding this to the Snowball Express this year. And that is families of fallen first responders, you know, um, these men and women that are being killed in the line of duty and dying while serving our community.

So not just our nation, but our community. And it really, um, you know, it takes a village. And what we want to do is we work to do what we can as an organization. Um, families can go on to our website, register as a surviving family. We hold multiple retreats for the families throughout the year. Uh, we have a program called Random Acts of Love.

[00:10:00] We want them to know that we don’t forget their sacrifice just on. Memorial Day, Every Day is Memorial Day for Families of our Fallen. Uh, we don’t just forget or just don’t remember on their angel anniversary or their birthday. We want the family to open that mailbox and see that there’s something in the mail that is random.

And it’s a random act of love because I believe as a Christian that my job as a believer is to show love. To the community, and whether you believe or not believe, I’m not here to, to, that, that’s not, that’s not what that’s about, but it’s just about, I need to show love. I didn’t know your brother, Okay.

and I didn’t know your family sacrifice, but I will never forget it.

And I will never forget those that have. Signed, signed that blank check and they were willing to go over into ugly places to defend the freedom that I have to be on this, [00:11:00] this call with you today.

Scott DeLuzio: And that’s, uh, you know, from, you know, a gold star family’s perspective, it’s, it’s amazing knowing that there are people out there who you didn’t know me prior, prior to us connecting to do this show. You didn’t know me. You didn’t know my family. Like you said, you didn’t know, you know, any of the, the background about us necessarily knowing the, just that, that once one piece of.

Our family’s history. Now it’s one of those things that it’s like, you’ll just like your, your, uh, name of your organization honoring our fallen. You’re never going to forget this type of thing. And it means, it means the world to someone like me. Uh, and, and I know a lot of other people out there who are in similar situations, they’re losing a loved one.

Um, it means the world knowing that there. Love One’s memory is not going to be forgotten, [00:12:00] um, by, it doesn’t matter if it’s, you know, family, friends, neighbors, co workers, complete strangers, um, you know, you know that that memory is going to continue. Um, could you tell us a little bit about, uh, some of the retreats, uh, that you mentioned earlier?

Laura Herzog: Yeah.

so, um, those evolved from in the beginning when I started honoring our fallen, um, I would gather with local, um, family members and children of the fallen and, and. As I continued to serve the casualty mission, so many would say, Oh, you know, why do you do what you do? Did you lose your husband? No. Did you lose your dad?

No. Did you lose your brother? No. Um, I didn’t, but I understand through serving the families. I, I have a understanding that it, it’s a community. So, and [00:13:00] what do I mean by that? And why am I, I kind of go down this little rabbit hole is, is that we could talk about one fallen service member and I’m, I’m going to bring him up.

His name is tattooed on my arm. Um, I didn’t know this young man. Um, I did get his family’s blessing who I’m very close with, um, before I put. Their son’s name, um, on my arm. Um, that was my first hero mission. I can remember the 10th of November, 2009. I can remember the weather. I can remember the smell of the roses that were at the front door.

I can remember feeling like I was literally like, I felt like I wanted, I was going to be sick. Um, it was an out of body experience. And I was walking up to the front door of Mary Hargrove, the mother of Lance Corporal Justin Swanson, who had just been told he was dead and never coming home. And it’s right before Thanksgiving.

It’s right before Christmas. And I was thinking, Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God. And we sat in the living room and I looked at pictures of him with his little blonde curly hair and his diapers and this [00:14:00] and that. And, um, I, um, I’m My life forever changed because of that young man. So did I understand because I lost a son?

No, but my, my understanding was different and I needed to have a different perspective in order to, to do what I do. And that’s where then the retreats came in. Like what your question was, was okay. So now I served Mary. And now, over here, I serve Marlene, and over here, I serve Evelyn, and then I have Rina, and I have these ladies who I’ve connected with, um, as an outsider, number one, outsider from the military, number two, outsider from the family, number three.

But I was a support. Okay. And now what about bringing these ladies together? So it started actually with a Christmas wreath making event. And I invited all the ladies to come make wreaths. They all wanted to back out. They all wanted to [00:15:00] make some excuse that they were too busy because none of them wanted to step out of their comfort zone and come.

They ended up coming. And now You know, they said we only came because Laura said, well, and now we’ve been doing retreats for 13 years. And these ladies, and, and I say that because it, it is, it’s kind of funny, but I hear it now where there’ll be the new mom that comes to an event, a wreath making, a this, this, or something, or I’ll even see them say something on, on social media or something and say, Oh, well, trust me.

I tried to make up, I was going to say I had a sore throat. I was going to do every reason why I shouldn’t have gone. And going on the retreat was the best therapy session that I ever had. And why is that? And it gets down to the root of those retreats, Scott. And that is, is, is that it’s, it’s connectivity.

It’s bringing people together. And so we work to have new moms that are newer in the journey. One’s that are middle of the road and, and widows and sisters. And then we just started this year, a women’s empowerment retreat, [00:16:00] because some of these young military members and first responders, they were maybe raised by grandma or an aunt, because mom or dad passed away.

I had 1 recently where the service member was raised. Um, in a, in foster home because they were taken away from their parents. And we don’t know the background and the family history and really that’s none of our business. It’s just a matter of bringing together the grieving, surviving family members, whether by blood or because they raised them, and to show them a network of support.

We know, you and I know, anybody who watches the news knows how broken Our mental health system is in this nation, and, and so whatever we can do to provide another network to make sure that we can do what we can for these families to know that they’re not alone.

Scott DeLuzio: Those types of, uh, retreats that you were [00:17:00] just describing where you bring, bring people together who have similar, not the same, you know, everyone, everyone’s circumstances were different, um, but they have similar, uh, events that have taken place in their lives and they can come together and realize that they’re, they’re not alone and, um, that there’s other people out there who may be grieving still, uh, maybe still dealing with the pain of, whatever, um, you know, that, that situation was losing their, their loved one.

Um, but when they get together, they, they get. There’s a bond that’s formed, I would imagine, right? Like, with the people who are, are there, they, they connect, they, they share experiences, they, they, they can talk together. And that community, I think, is, is really important, um, for, for certain people who who need that, who need that support system.

Um, and, and this is, I think, a great, um, [00:18:00] great way to do that is by bringing some of these people together and allowing them to open up and share and talk, and sometimes it’s just having somebody there to listen, you know, it’s

Laura Herzog: It’s a toolbox.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah,

Laura Herzog: you know, it’s creating a toolbox. So, you know, even though like, your brother, you grieved your brother, okay? Your mom was grieving your brother, your dad was grieving your brother, your grandma’s grieving your brother, grandma, grandpa, I don’t know if you have any siblings, they’re all grieving your brother.

And even though everyone’s grieving your brother, they’re all grieving someone different because your brother was someone different to each of you. And we’re in that sudden tragic Grief and that loss often times. We get lost. So, you know, and the grief doesn’t just randomly, you know, happen at the right time.

You could be going [00:19:00] through, um, a change at work, a change in, especially during COVID happening, um, change in career path, loss of a job. So then the grief becomes complicated because there’s more things that are going on than just that. And then unfortunately, when we have the suicides, the self inflicted, then there’s all this, um, There’s shame, there’s guilt, there’s ownership.

It’s just another big package to have to psychologically and emotionally, uh, break, break down and break through. And, um, what you said, and that is so when they can come together, they come together in, in, in my goal and our goal is it’s a safe community. Okay, so you’re coming together in a safe community, and when you hear other people, and I know I’m gonna, I’m gonna kind of shift this off this, so maybe one of your listeners that may be watching this that doesn’t understand, so I’m a cancer survivor.

So I remember taking that first lap around the track at the high school for the Relay for Life, okay, the [00:20:00] survivor lap. But I was in the beginning. I was getting ready to go to the doctor. I didn’t know what to expect. And it was that other survivor that could tell me, okay, don’t worry. When you go to the doctor, this is going to happen.

So on these retreats, hearing the other, and that’s. why I was referencing earlier when I was sharing with you that we work to have. Newer moms, newer widows, newer sisters, newer, you know, grandmas, people that are newer in the journey, midway through. And then even on our widows retreat, and there’s been some, we even invite widows where they register and, and, and we break them up through a lottery system.

But we do include in that lottery, another grouping that we draw from of, of, um, widow, widower spouses that have. Um, already become remarried and people would say, well, why, why do you do that? I said, because that’s hope to the hopeless. I can tell you that I have widows that have told me I’m never going to fall in love again.

I’m never going to get married. Can I tell you that I, [00:21:00] I had the honor and the privilege of being asked to become an ordained minister and marrying one of those widows who lost her husband in Afghanistan. Who told me for five years, I’m never, never, never. Well, you’re, and she says, you’re gonna laugh at me right now.

And I said, why? She said, because you were right. And I know that my husband in heaven would want no one else to marry us but you. And so it’s just that, it’s just those building of those bridges and, and that hopeless. You know, I’m really, you know, um, I guess maybe it’s just because Christmas is coming up and this memory has just been like kind of just, I mean, you can tell you just got emotional, but last year on Christmas morning at 3 o’clock in the morning, my phone rang and I answered the phone. And it was a widow that we had served in and she had taken part in our programs and she’s just literally hysterically crying. And I was like, Oh, Lord, I was all I could think of is what happened, what happened. And so I just, [00:22:00] I mean, it was 3 o’clock in the morning, so it was easier for me to just be calm and quiet.

I was trying to wake up still at the same time.

Scott DeLuzio: Right.

Laura Herzog: And, you know, I wasn’t planning on getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning. My kids are grown and out of the house, so I don’t have to get up and do that Santa Claus thing anymore. Um, but, um, you know, she did. And she said, I’m up and I’m doing Santa Claus and I put this stuff together and I just have to tell you that I wouldn’t be alive doing this today if it weren’t for you. She said, I was going to kill myself and you saved me. And I thought, and all I could think is I didn’t do nothing. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do what I don’t do. Right.

But that’s where all of us, all your listeners, you and I both have heard that what. Seems like nothing to us is everything to someone else.

Smiling at that jerk at the grocery store that, you know, is whatever, you know, but, but it’s just about what we said earlier, what I shared earlier about, we just need to [00:23:00] show love to other people. And that’s what honoring our fallen. That’s what our, our goal is, is just to show love and light to others.

Scott DeLuzio: And that little thing that you do, uh, to you anyways, it’s just such a little thing, uh, means the world to somebody else, uh, like you said, and can completely change the trajectory of their lives. It can go from, uh, It’s going to end real soon, because I just can’t handle this anymore, and ready to, you know, just end it all, um, to the point where…

Now, you know, she’s able to keep going and found a path and found hope to keep moving on and move forward.

Laura Herzog: Yeah, and I give all the glory to God because I just show up And, I just do, I, I tell God, okay, you know, lead me, guide me, direct me, let me do your will and not mine. And then I’m sitting back and [00:24:00] I’m going, Whoa, you know, cause, cause I just. Thought that I was just being kind.

Scott DeLuzio: And, you know, I think one of the things that organizations like yours is really good at is being. flexible, adaptable to the situation because everybody is going to have different needs. Um, and, uh, that’s where a lot of, like a lot of the organizations that you mentioned come in and one is going to be stronger at fulfilling one sort of need than another.

And, and there’s all these different needs that are out there from the different families. Um, because You know, life doesn’t stop for you, even though it might feel like it does, there’s still bills that need to be paid, there’s still, uh, you know, life things that we just do every day, um, even though your world came crashing down and you feel like everything is over.

It’s not like there is still life to be lived. And, [00:25:00] you know, sometimes you do need that help to be able to continue. Right.

Laura Herzog: You’re Right.

And that, that network of community. And I’m glad that you said that because it makes me think of another non profit. Freedom Has a Face. And Freedom Has a Face. And they serve, they, they’re, they are specifically for, for combat death. But nevertheless, I, I had a widow that lost her husband.

We’re in the middle of planning the funeral. He was killed in combat. We’re doing this and this. And the washer starts sprung a leak and it’s leaking all over the house. And we’re still trying to get the funeral done. And I remembered about that nonprofit, so I connected them and connected that and literally the next day or the day after Home Depot came and delivered a new washer and dryer and installed them.

Honoring our fallen didn’t do that, but it’s a matter of connecting with the other resources that are out there. I had a mom recently that lost her daughter tragically in a, in a Vehicle accident, um, a driver off base driving and racing a car and she was tragically killed. [00:26:00] And, and, um, she called me and she’s like, Hey, I need some urgent counseling.

Well, I knew she could have called her casualty officer and he would have given her, you know, the, and get her set up, which he is with the VA. But I also know that there’s the toll free number for TAPs and they have a 24 hour hotline for, um, You know, that you need some, you know, help. So I sent her that number.

Um, I am working with TAPS right now, actually, on what strategic partnerships that we can do and overflow. Because for me, um, and, and that’s one of the things, um, that I learned, um, from one of, one of the, the general officers. I was a direct report to three different generals during my time in, under my contract.

Um, we opened a veteran services center at the base that, um, I worked at and I helped to work with him to make that happen. And I remember him teaching me that it’s, it’s about collaboration. Like I am [00:27:00] not looking like honoring our fallen, you know, my, my personally, my reward. is in heaven. It is not here on this earth.

So, it’s about collaboratively working together. None of us can do it alone, right? And so, that’s what he really instilled in me at the Veteran Services Center. You know, we have the AMVETS and we have, um, the, um, uh, the ESGR, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, and we have all these organizations that are out there serving veterans.

Now, let’s, how, how can we all collaboratively? Just like you said, and you mentioned it earlier, Scott, and I like how you say that. And I’m going to, I’m really going to remember that is, is that because, because that is, that is the really the, the root of it. And that is, we all have a different, um, strength.

All of these organizations, we all have a different strength, and I’ll use, um, uh, Folds of Honor, you know, scholarships, you know, that’s, that’s their deal. [00:28:00] Tunnels for Towers, holy cannoli what they’re doing, we’re helping with these. Veterans and, and I just saw, um, his latest, um, thing where he, you know, veterans housing.

So, just really getting in depth to help get homeless veterans off the streets. So, there’s all of these organizations out there doing great things. And the collaboration between us, um, I think is important because, again, what you said is, is, is that. Everybody needs a little bit of help sometimes, you know, and we can, we can even take it outside of the military, you know, that, that, um, I went to church the other day and I, I’m going to get it wrong, I know I am, but, um, it’s the Operation Shoebox, you know, with the Christmas box, you know, just, um, you know, and, and, and it’s just, it’s, it’s, it’s all of us trying together to, to make a difference in, in the community and our, our organization and our community.

Thank You Is [00:29:00] the surviving family members of our military and our first responders that died while actively serving.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, and just to go back to that point where, you know, everyone or every one of these organizations have, have different strengths, um, just think about, um, you know, really any individuals that maybe. Uh, work for a company, you know, you’re going to have people who are stronger on more administrative kind of tasks, then you’re going to have other people who are, are stronger on, uh, you know, maybe engineers, you’re going to have those types of people where you’re going to have someone like me who, you know, can’t even put together stuff, you know, a Lego kit with instructions.

And, you know, so that’s not me. I’m not the engineer. I’m the, I’m more of the, the admin side of things. Right. And so, um, you know, you’re gonna have people with all these different strengths and you come together. And any one of those people by themselves. If that’s what the only person working for that company, that company is going to fail.

It’s not going to go too far. Um, but you bring [00:30:00] all these people together. That engineer doesn’t need to think about the admin stuff and the paperwork and the payroll and all this other kind of stuff. Right. But. Someone like me, who’s not an engineer at all, doesn’t have to think about the engineering stuff either.

And I don’t have to now use all my brainpower to go learn a new skill and a new task and all that kind of stuff. Right. So all these organizations coming together and doing the things that they are great at to help these people, um, just like the washer and dryer. Uh, thing that you were talking about that, you know, to anybody else who was not going through, uh, planning a funeral and the grief of losing a loved one and all that kind of stuff.

Having a washer dryer, uh, you know, go out on you. It’s inconvenient. It’s frustrating. It’s, it’s not. You know, something that you’re looking forward to, obviously, but, but when it happens, it’s like, okay, well, I’ll go to the store. I’ll get a new one and I’ll, [00:31:00] I’ll get it replaced or get it fixed. You know, call the repairman.

I’ll just do that. But when you’re going through all that other stuff, it’s like, it could just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, you know, and.

Laura Herzog: Right, yeah, your life has already been ripped out from, yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. And so having, you know, even just someone like you who knows that there’s this other support out there, these other organizations, you know, who to call, you know, who to talk to, because you’ve made that connection. We were talking about connection and community and bonding and all that kind of stuff, uh, earlier, but when you’ve already made those connections.

So it’s not like you have to go and do the research all over again. So, so that’s a great asset that you bring to the table is just knowing. All of these organizations and what they can offer to these families and making those, those, maybe a phone call or an email and just those connections to help those people.


Laura Herzog: Yeah, and I love what you said because I like, I can use, I have volunteers and I have volunteers that are coming here and they’ll help me in the office and [00:32:00] they’ll be here 4 days, 5 days a week from, you know, 8 o’clock in the morning until 1 o’clock in the afternoon. They’ll come to our events, they’ll help do all the decorating, all the setup and all this, but the minute that it’s time for the event to start. They’re gone. Why? Because they’re just, that’s just not, but I bring that up because just like you were saying, you were using the engineer. You and I are the same. I can’t even, like, if it comes in a box, I’m like, yeah, I have a guy. He is a retired L. A. County Deputy Sheriff, prior service, airborne in the Army, and he lives not far from the office.

I say, hey. And he comes over and he brings his little toolbox and he puts together whatever I need to put together because that’s his deal, not mine. Um, you know, and, and it is, and it’s just, you know, community. I, um, I was just, you know, sitting, sitting in my, my son and daughter in law’s, um, house babysitting the grandbabies this weekend on Sunday, and I got a call from a widow.

Um, that I serve, [00:33:00] and, um, she lost her husband just a decade ago, um, army, um, to suicide. And on the 30th of this month, she will, um, two years have lost her daughter, tragically, to suicide. And she called me on Sunday to tell me that her son had been killed in a motorcycle accident on Sunday, and I thought, for the love of Jesus, you know, here’s this widow who lost her husband 10 years ago, her daughter 2 years ago, and on the eve of, you know, Thanksgiving and the holiday season, and on the eve of the 2 year marking of her daughter’s passing, now her son’s, And so I, I, I said to her, I said, how are you even talking to me Right.


Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.

Laura Herzog: You know, and she said, dude, I don’t know. And she said, I said, well, what do you need me to do? Like, I’m ready. What do you need? And [00:34:00] she says, well, he was, he got out of the army last year. He’s, you know, 80 percent medically disabled. I’m like, okay, I’m on it. So I called the army casualty center who, who I’m very close with.

Most of those guys at all the casualty centers, ladies and gentlemen that work there. And so I called one of them on their cell phone. I’m like, Hey, I need your help. He’s what’s going on. I’m sorry to call you on a Sunday and, but I need your help. He’s what’s going on. I said, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And he goes, okay.

You know, I’ll help you with getting the honor guard and all that set up. We’ll just got to find out what CAC is going to be handling it. Um, you know, but have her call the VA and ask this, this, and this, and this, because I don’t, I, I work in the active duty components. So I wasn’t sure like how to give her the resource.

So I called her right back. I’m like, Hey. You got to call this number. And so she texted me this morning and she said, you’re Right.

That was perfect. And, you know, so it’s just a matter of walking alongside somebody that doesn’t know what to do. And it’s hard, you know, you and I can say that we know what to do.

And even, [00:35:00] even as a gold star brother, that you would know what to do because you’re not in the middle of the. The rug that was just yanked up from underneath

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Right.

Laura Herzog: journey is a little bit different even this year than it was before, Scott, because on February the 6th of this year on a Monday at 1230 in the afternoon, my mom, who was happy, healthy on my husband’s birthday, just driving down the street in Southern California, down beach Boulevard, um, was killed by a man driving 80 miles an hour on the wrong side of the road.

Um, and You know, so everything was fine 1 day and in a minute it wasn’t and and so it, it, um, it sucks and, and I’m, you know, going through my own grief with that. What I’ve also been able to see is, is how. How even my own, another one of my own [00:36:00] tragedies, I told you I went through tragic things as a child and this and this, and, and I see how those tools that I’ve learned in my journey of life and loss and, you know, loss of not just people, but careers and this and this and this.

Um, All of us have a testimony, and I’m going to circle that back to what you said about the retreats, because that’s where I was kind of trying to weave this together, is that those testimonies that we all have, maybe it’s, and I hear the conversations happen with the family members on these retreats, where they’re sharing.

So they, they have a bond because of a common loss. Which, which brings a sense of safety for the open communication, and I hear them helping each other, you know, over 50 percent of marriages. [00:37:00] Ending divorce after the death of a child. That’s, that’s, that’s, you know, a studies, I call it, you know, so, so here are these ladies and they talk, they’re talking to each other and they’re able to help each other and bridge gaps.

And, um, you know, we had a mom that was struggling because, um, we’re taught, and I talked about this earlier, but I think this fits perfect with the retreats is, is that, um, We’re taught how to grieve by the people that raise us, right? So, sometimes. And then we fall in love with somebody and we get married and we don’t realize how they were taught to grieve, but they were taught to grieve different than us.

So, when we’re dealing with the grief, it turns into a disaster.

Scott DeLuzio: It does. And when, when these things happen, um, you were talking about earlier, um, just not knowing what to do. Um, And sometimes, even if you know [00:38:00] exactly what to do, when you’re in the middle of the chaos, if you will, of that situation, your mind’s someplace else. You can’t think straight. You know, I, uh, a few years ago, my, my wife, uh, had, had a medical issue and, and took her to the hospital.

Um, The doctor was asking, you know, things like, you know, what medications does she take? What, you know, all the, all the typical stuff that doctors will ask in this, this type of situation. She was unresponsive. She couldn’t answer these questions. So they came to me and asked all these questions an hour before getting to the hospital.

Before any of this, this stuff happened, I would have been able to rattle off all that stuff. No problem. Absolutely. A hundred percent. And I, I, I’d ace that test if you will. Right. Um,

Laura Herzog: hear you.

Scott DeLuzio: I’m standing there talking to the doctor and I drew a complete blank and I’m like, I don’t know.

Laura Herzog: Right? Because you’re panicked, you’re scared, all of that. And that’s like the widow that I [00:39:00] said that caught into. It’s, it’s, and it’s, it’s, I love how the, you know, the, our conversation, just, you know, a natural conversation, especially, um, you know, the connection that we have in, indirectly. Um, and, and, and it’s like, that, and, and the casualty officers, some of them say, they’re saying, I don’t know how you do what you do.

You walk in the room, just the whole room calms down. And it’s just, and it, because it’s just a matter of. Working with them. The funeral homes are in the business of making money. I get that, you know, and the, the, the, you know, everybody, this, this, this, and so, um, I, I actually have a shirt that one of the families got me and it says chaos coordinator.

So. Just to, you know, and, and, and every family’s different and, and like you said, 100%, every family’s need is different, but it’s just a matter of finding out where we can fill in the gaps and, and, and, and maybe, you know, there’s. You know, especially in, in the self inflicted, in the [00:40:00] suicide, you know, everybody wants to blame somebody.

And that’s normal when it happens. It’s set in and it’s like, how did we miss this? You know, and, and, you know, I shouldn’t have known and everybody, you know, and this, and nobody knows what, you know, nobody knows. And it’s just different. I mean, it’s set in and it’s tragic, but it has its own little. It has its own pocket that needs to be worked through over here.

Um, but then we all know, we all know, and you know, even if you’re not a Gold Star family, even if, you know. you’re not a veteran and you’re watching this, every family has conflict, every family has drama. And so when, I remember this colonel that told me, Her dog, he says, I said, yes, sir. He says, you got to remember one thing when you walk into the house, just.

Take the pulse in the room. And I was like, what’s he talking about? And now I,

know what he’s talking about, because it’s just a matter of finding out like where, where is, you know, where can we bridge it? We’ve, [00:41:00] um, I’ve, you know, where mom and dad are divorced and, and they’re both remarried and, and, you know, just being able to kind of just find a balance and help and, and.

Or help them find a balance so that we can get their loved one because they want to lay their loved one to rest and they don’t, you know, and so, you know, we have a couple of vans, so you can ride in this van, you can ride in this van. Let’s just, let’s just make this, make this as smooth of a process and let’s get your loved one laid to rest and honored the way that they deserve.

And, um, yeah,

and, and, and the retreats, like you had asked, just, you know, finding, creating a safe place and a community because, because no one else, and it kind of circles back to kind of what you were talking about, about understanding, and is that no one else is going to understand. Like, no one’s going to understand you other than another sibling. Right.

And I have a [00:42:00] personal, you know, mission, um, more over the last three years than I ever have, um, since founding the organization about the siblings. Um, and that’s because I feel like the siblings are forgotten. Um, I was actually at a mission myself where we almost. And I didn’t even find out until later, we almost left the sibling at the church!

Scott DeLuzio: Oh no.

Laura Herzog: Because all of us were worried, is the wife, or the kids, is the mom, and the dad, is that, are they all in the cart? And if it weren’t for the pastor, we would have forgot the sibling. You know, and I’m like, holy cannoli. And, and, and then, you know, um… You know, just, and, and, you know, the, the, the siblings that, you know, they, they get, they get forgotten, you know, um, and, and, and it’s not because the parents.

Forgot them. It’s not because the parents don’t care. It’s because the parents are [00:43:00] trying to figure out how to process their own grief. And they’re so like, kind of like what you were saying about your wife. And I know this is like comparing two different things, but Yeah. you were squared away. You could have said whatever when you got to the hospital.

Right. But then You know, and then, and the same thing, that grief fog, and then, and then, you know, it’s, it’s just tough, tough, tough. So, yeah, grief is just tough all the way around, and we’re honored to serve these families and, and, um, do what we can to support them and, um, walk alongside them and to, to share in the joys, um, of them receiving, um, the support and the, The companionship and the development.

I love watching the ladies later and even the dads. I’ll see them on social media and they’ll be going out to breakfast when they’re visiting in the other state. And then they’ll send me a text, my new friend, only because of you, you know? [00:44:00] And so when you know that you’re, that you played a tiny role by just making that connection, then.

The, and, and these mom, I have these moms, they travel all over and they go And

they meet each other. And then, then they, they decided that they didn’t wanna wait for an honoring our fallen retreat or for a TAPS retreat or for, um. Any other kind of gathering. So they, they went on their own retreat and I was like,

Scott DeLuzio: that’s, that’s, that’s great because like you said, you get that connection. Um, and, and these people. Don’t need to wait around for the next retreat. They, they can, I mean, it can even just be as simple as going to get a cup of coffee or, you know, having dinner or something like that. Just, just to catch up, talk to each other.

You know, how’s it going? Just a simple thing. We, we talk about this with veterans all the time, you know, do, do your buddy checks, call, call the folks that you served [00:45:00] with and things like that. But these families, I mean, maybe, maybe they need to get a phone call every once in a while. Um, and. And from maybe someone who understands what they’re going through, because they’ve gone through something very similar.

Um, that might mean a lot to them. It might mean a lot if, you know, maybe the, the folks who served with their loved one who maybe was there when they passed away. Um, maybe that might mean a lot to them too. Um, but having that community, uh, built in where it’s like, Hey, I know I need this support and I know they need this support.

So we’re going to work together. We’re going to help each other out. Um, you know, It gives you that, it gives you a sense of purpose and meaning too, and that gives you a little bit of hope after a very hopeless situation.

Laura Herzog: Right. And, and I’m glad that you said that because, you know, so for some people, maybe Christmas was the favorite holiday for some Thanksgiving, maybe for some it was, you know, they had the summer vacation and it was a one month vacation in July. And so the [00:46:00] Independence Day was a big thing, you know, family traditions and everybody’s family’s traditions are different.

And so I love what you said about that and that. That, you know, just, you know, that buddy check, you know, cause you just don’t know. Um, and, and, uh, those are, those are important things. And I think that one of the programs, and I know TAPS has it, and I think that I don’t know if, but the peer to peer mentorship.

So, I know that one of the, the moms, uh, uh, uh, that I serve, um, she was just at the recent TAPS, uh, Survivor thing in Long Beach here, um, a couple, a month ago, two months ago. And so she went through the, uh, peer to peer mentor training so that she could be a peer to peer mentor, uh, for, you know, another mom.

So, again, I think it’s just about all of us just making sure that we, um. That we just be there for each other.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. Um, for the listeners who, um, maybe they’re, [00:47:00] uh, a Gold Star family themselves and they are… In need of support or, um, even for people who, um, just want to become more educated in what, what it is that you, you guys do, um, or want to get involved in and maybe volunteer and help out. Uh, where can people go to find out more information about honoring our fallen and everything that you guys do?

Laura Herzog: So you can go to honoringourfallen. org, um, to our website. Um, there are several buttons right there on the, the initial, uh, top of the initial page. It depends on if you’re looking at it from a, uh, a web browser from a phone or from, um, uh, never, I don’t know how many people except for me use desktop computers anymore.

Um, but laptop and so forth, and there’s a couple of buttons there. 1 says, I want to volunteer where you can register as a volunteer. And there’s several different options, especially if it’s someone that’s remote and how you can volunteer. So there’s a volunteer [00:48:00] registration, there’s a donate button, and then there is a button that says survivor family registration.

And so you would click on the survivor family registration button register as a surviving family member. And once you do that, you’ll have access to things on the website, um, for retreats. Um, and, um, then you can also register for the random acts of love. And, um, we used to do, um, so it’s just through the evolution of for, for me, is why duplicate the efforts that are out there, you know?

Um, so there’s a Soldier’s Child, amazing nonprofit organization, um, that, that sends, um. Uh, Birthday Boxes, um, to Children of the Fallen. And then, um, Believe With Me in Florida, um, a non profit organization that does Christmas, um, for the children. So we used to do Christmas, um, and, um, they, we figured why, why we can [00:49:00] focus on what we can do and narrow what we do better than do, than staying and duplicating.

They, um, Their main goal is Christmas. So they collect a Christmas wish list and things like that. So we will connect you with other organizations that you can get registered for and My phone number is seven one four nine zero four zero two five three people would think you’re crazy given your phone number on that That my phone is there and if you need to call call If I don’t answer the phone Send me a text message because not all the voicemails go through and if I am in, in serving a mission, we’re currently serving three casualty missions right now.

And so if I’m in a funeral home and I can’t answer, but again, 714 904 0253, our toll free number is on the website. There’s a contact us button on our website. Um, reach out. And, um, I, you know, I know that, um, there are people that [00:50:00] say, you’re crazy leaving that out there, but you know what, I, I, I’m, I’m here, um, if I can’t help you, I, you know, you may just get a text message, you may just get a text message of call so And so, you know, they can help you.

Um, I won’t be able to necessarily talk to everyone, but I want to make myself and our organization available to support where we can. Thank you. Amen.

Scott DeLuzio: And that’s, I think what, what we were talking about earlier about how everyone has their strengths, right? Everyone, there’s other organizations that are doing certain things. Like you said, why duplicate those efforts? Let them handle those things. You guys focus on what you do best. And, um, so yeah, definitely reach out if you, if you need the support or you know somebody who needs the support, you know, send the information to them.

Um, And take a look at the website with all the information about the various programs, services, and things like that, that are offered, or if you just [00:51:00] feel like you’re stuck and you don’t know where to turn, um, I’m, I’m sure that’s the, yeah, exactly. Like you said, uh, you know, give you a call, send you a text message.

Hey, this is my situation. Um, you know, I’m, I’m in need of X, Y, Z, whatever it is. Um, can you help me? And I’m, I’m sure.

Laura Herzog: is for surviving families though, not, so I know that your veterans may be watching this, um, if you’re watching this and you lost your loved one, um, recently, um, to, you know, Agent Orange, um, something like that, um, there are resources that are out there for you and, and I’m sorry, they’re, they, they are not us.

So the specifics are honoring our fallen service, the family members of those who died while active in the military. So active guard or reserve. Or, uh, first responder. And if you lost your loved one active in the military, um, and you need support, please reach out. Um, And we will do what we can to support you to get you connected with the [00:52:00] right organization that can support you.

Um, if, you know, for the availability, um, and, um, but we do want you to get on there and register for the random acts of love on our website, um, and to register for the retreat. Um, and, um, just for you to know that there is, um, a community out there, whether it be Honoring Our Fallen, whether it be TAPS, whether it be SOS, Survivor Outreach Services, the Navy Gold Star Program, um, You know, uh, the Gary Sinise Foundation, uh, and, and I, the list goes on, uh, Folds of Honor, the Folded Flag, um, Angels of the Fallen in, in, uh, Colorado, um, that, that we’re all out here And we’re a community.

We may be different organizations, different non profits. We may not all know each other, but we know what each other do and we’re out there to do what we can to support you.

Scott DeLuzio: And just, just a little side note here, uh, kind of taking it [00:53:00] away from, uh, what we were just talking about here, but, um, those random acts of love, which just as an example, um, When my brother was killed, we lived in Connecticut at the time. That’s where he’s buried. Uh, we’ve since moved to Arizona, but we go back every once in a while to, to visit, you know, family, friends, things like that.

And, uh, one year we’re there around Memorial Day and went to go visit his grave. And. We didn’t put anything out on his grave, but there were flags, there were flowers, there were, there was this big, um, you know, display like with, with flowers and everything all around his grave site. And just knowing that somebody cared enough.

Who just to be, uh, you know, to be out there on their day off, they could be out, you know, having their, their picnics and their barbecues and whatever with their friends and family. But they decided to take a few minutes out of their day to come there, put the stuff there and remember [00:54:00] his sacrifice, uh, just meant.

A lot to us. Um, you know, we, we didn’t have all of those things with us when, you know, when we traveled, uh, you know, across the country flying out here, we didn’t, we didn’t come with big displays of flowers. And of course we could have bought those things here, uh, you know, where, where we were, where we were, but, um, but we just showed up and it was all there.

And it was just showing that somebody actually remembers. Um, and, and so knowing that. That’s an option. You can have these little random acts of love that just show up randomly, right? That’s in the name of it. So, um, they show up randomly and it just shows you that somebody’s out there who cares and It’s gonna it’ll mean a lot

Laura Herzog: right in. And I love how you said that. And, you know, one of the things is just, and, and I would love to have the time to make the phone calls, so many phone calls that, you know, and, and we don’t serve every family and we’re, you know, not because we don’t want to, but [00:55:00] if we’re not called and, and, and other circumstances like that, um, kind of like when we don’t, you know, The casualty officers, not everyone calls us.

There’s a list of resources that are given to them and, and, and, you know, it’s not for them if they’ve never worked with us before and they don’t know and they think the family has all the resources that they need, then they, you know, so we don’t connect with them until later. But my, my point is, is that even if that, that not everybody has the time to make that phone call, um, sometimes, um, you know, sometimes just that random.

thing in the mail with that little love note, you know, and that little, um, gift of, of whatever, you know, just that, that random act of love. Um, and it’s my hope and my, my prayer that, that, that, that, that meets. The family member that receives it, whether it’s a mom, dad, brother, sister, grandma, you know, um, the child, [00:56:00] um, that it meets them where they’re at at that date.

Scott DeLuzio: and that’s I think all that we can Ask of anybody like that. You know, like we, it’s just so much that you do. You may seem like it’s, it’s not a big deal. It’s not, not anything huge, but it is. Uh, and, and for, um, you know, on behalf of Goldstar families, I want to thank you for, uh, the things that you guys are doing.

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Um, before we wrap up this episode, um, I liked, I like to end the episodes with a little bit of humor. Um, the. Sometimes the, the subjects that we talk about, they can be a little bit heavy and, you know,

Laura Herzog: I love it.

Scott DeLuzio: light in the

Laura Herzog: Humor. Humor’s fantastic.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and, and, you know, it’s not for [00:58:00] everybody. Some people don’t, they’re not in that, that position.

If they want to tune out right now, they can, they can tune out. But, uh, I have a segment, I like to call it, Is It Service Connected? And it’s basically watching, uh, videos of people doing stupid things. Think about America’s Funniest Home Videos, that type of. Watching people do stupid, stupid things. And, uh, then we can, we can kind of joke about whether or not whatever happened in the video would be a service connected disability, uh, somewhere down the line.

So they’re all service members and nobody got, gets seriously, seriously injured in these things, but, uh, usually it’s fun to laugh at after the fact. So, um, I’m going to pull this video up so we can, we can share it real quick. Um, and. So for the, the podcast listeners, the audio only version, I’ll try to explain what’s going on.

Um, right now, all we really see is a, uh, looks like a soldier standing in a kind of gravel lot, a bunch of connexes in the background. Not really sure what, what’s about to happen here, but I’m going to, I’m going to play it. And [00:59:00] try to narrate what’s going on as, as it happens. And we’ll probably get a, get a good laugh, uh, as, as this video goes on.

So here, here we go. And he’s jumping up, trying to break a wooden board and he goes flying. It looked more like he was jumping on a, on a trampoline than a piece of wood as he’s going. So,

Laura Herzog: As he runs past, fire

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, he ran past, past a fire. I’m going to play this again while we’re at it. I’m just gonna, I’m going to click play right here and he’s running past a fire and he jumps on this piece of wood and he falls into, uh, looks like a pile of other wood, uh, that he had over there.

Um, I don’t know what he’s trying to do.

Laura Herzog: stick the, the, like, so it looked like, okay, I grew up with all brothers, okay? So, and I work with it. So he looked like he was trying to break this big fat stick that was leaned up and he was going to use his weight to break the stick in half. Well, this stick was this thick and then he falls forward. [01:00:00] And Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. It, it, it looked like it. Yeah, exactly. I’m glad he didn’t hit the fire. That would definitely, uh, uh, you know,

Laura Herzog: that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s boys, and I can, I can tell you because I work with these active duty guys all the time, the stuff, oh lord have mercy, yeah,

Scott DeLuzio: boys being boys. Um,

Laura Herzog: boys be boys, jumping off stuff they have no business jumping off of,

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, exactly. So I don’t know, uh, you know, unless he landed the wrong way on the way down. I, he seemed, seemed like he probably, uh, survived that one. Okay. So he probably didn’t have anything super major going on. Um, but I’m, I’m sure he got mad at that board afterwards and wanted to,

Laura Herzog: Well, yeah, or ended up with a black eye that he had to make up some, some, some other story

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, you should have seen the other guy, that kind of story.

Laura Herzog: exactly.

Scott DeLuzio: So anyways, thank you again for taking the time to join us and sharing everything that you do. Um, really do appreciate all the efforts [01:01:00] that you put in to, uh, to this organization and to the families of, of the fallen. So thank you again.

Laura Herzog: I appreciate what you do for bringing, you know, bringing us here to tell you, tell our story, but also for all that you do for veterans and, and, and veterans organizations and veteran stories. And, um, You know, God bless you for, and, and, and, and doing what you do and, and pushing through, um, in honor of your brother and, um, please get yourself and your, your family registered as on the Random Acts of Love.

And, and, um, I, although I didn’t know your family at that time and I didn’t know you um, your brother, um, I will never forget your family’s sacrifice. And it’s because of your family’s sacrifice, um, that I get up every morning and do what I do every day. Thank

Scott DeLuzio: again. I do appreciate it.

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 [01:02:00] 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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