Weatherford Democrat

November 22, 2012

Gold Star Families offer comfort during holidays

Sally Sexton
CNHI

PARKER COUNTY — It’s never an easy thing to lose a loved one, especially in the act of combat.

But John W. and Carol Savage are doing their part of help the families of lost military loved ones cope with the struggle.

The Savages lost their son, John J., in 2008 at the age of 26. Army Sgt. Savage was killed in a roadside bombing in Iraq while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The first year is the worst time,” father John Savage said. “During the second year, you’re kind of in a cloud and the third year is when you start getting through it.”

Part of the initial grief came from not really having anyone else to talk to, said stepmother Carol Savage.

“Right after the funeral, we had people everywhere around us, but as time went on, nothing,” she said. “It was a real struggle not having anyone to talk to, anyone that really understood what we were going through.”

A few months ago, the Savages began the process of localizing a national organization, Gold Star Families.

Gold Star Families helps to support families by organizing events and seminars. At the state level, the Gold Star Support Center in Fort Hood hosts the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, as well as the Survivor Outreach Services conventions.

Seeing the aid of these programs, the Savages, along with other Parker County Gold Star Families, teamed up to make those same services available to local residents.

“We just really want to get this going,” John Savage said. “What we’re trying to do is arrange to meet once a month, with a barbecue or pot luck dinner, just some way to get together in fellowship.”

So far, seven families have joined the Parker County group.

“We have one new member who’s really struggling bad right now,” John Savage said.

“We just try to embrace her every chance we get,” Carol Savage added.

Being there for each other is just one of the benefits of the group, Carol Savage said, as families keep in constant contact with one another during the tougher times of the year.

“When the date of their death comes, we call or text them with a little message like ‘Thinking of you and your son on this day’ or something like that,” she said. “The holidays are pretty tough too. And we realize that this is the time to outreach.”

Gold Star Families has already seen support from the City of Weatherford as well. Earlier this month, the city and Gold Star members helped create banners for five Parker County fallen soldiers. The banners were displayed around the courthouse the week before Veteran’s Day.

“We’ve got a heart to help people, and we feel that this is where we’re really needed,” Carol Savage said. “This is a healing process for all of us.”

Anyone that has lost a loved one in the military is encouraged to join, and can contact the Savages, at 817-596-4875 or 817-598-9712, or Kaye Jordan at 817-599-8998.

“There may be more and more others around the area that we’re not aware of,” John Savage said of families. “This is our heart, and this is what we want to do.”

Gold Star Families is in the process of creating a directory with contact information for each family.

“That way, if they need to talk, they can always reach someone,” Carol Savage said.