Remembering Justin on my First Gold Star Mother’s Day

Justin_and_Phyllis-GOLD-STARI’m a new Gold Star Mom. I’m just beginning this new journey of what that means to be a mother who has lost her child.

My son Justin was a calm baby in the womb, usually perfectly happy to just sleep calmly close to my heart. That all changed when he was born six and a half weeks premature, and spent his first weeks in the NICU. That’s when we knew he was a fighter.

Growing up, Justin would always zero in on one particular thing in life, and be so passionate about that one thing. First, it was dinosaurs. Then wolves, pirates, and sunken ships. After that, it was a love of knights, castles, and finally, the military and its history.

My own family could trace its military history back to Europe and the Revolutionary War. My father-in-law was a West Point graduate and veteran of both Korea and Vietnam. Having two grandfathers who both served in the military was something Justin admired very much.

It came as no surprise when Justin told us he wanted to be in the Army. I don’t remember how he told us, but it just seemed to be the natural order of his life. It was in his genes, and we supported him.

Justin wanted to attend West Point and follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Brooks. After doing everything necessary, he was not accepted. Justin was very disappointed, but took it as a challenge to fight for what he wanted. He took an ROTC Scholarship to his dad’s alma mater, Florida State University.

At the end of his freshman year at FSU, Justin chose to give up his ROTC scholarship, and join the Florida National Guard. Much to our dismay, he followed his heart and finished Basic Training in the summer of 2008. A few months later, his National Guard Unit was activated and deployed to Iraq. As a full time student, Justin did not have to go. However, we were surprised to learn that he made the decision to deploy with his unit anyway.

We asked Justin, “Why?”

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He told us he felt the need to serve, and thought the experience would give him a better idea of what it would be like to lead his fellow soldiers in the future. Just like that, he was off to fight.

When he returned, he received the Bronze Star for his service, which is unusual for a Specialist to receive. He shrugged it off and said he was “just doing his job.”

Justin was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in April 2012.

It was a proud moment for us all. He completed Ranger School, Sapper School, Airborne and Assault, and was assigned to the 101st Airborne, 1-506th, 4th BCT at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. This was a dream come true for Justin, as he had always admired the Airborne Unit. He deployed ahead of his unit on April 2, 2013, as part of TORCH, a group sent to light the way in preparation for everyone else to follow. Just like that, he was off to another fight.

[Read more of Phyllis' journey here]

9 responses to “Remembering Justin on my First Gold Star Mother’s Day

  1. Thank you for sharing your son and your story with us. Hugs and healing coming your way…

  2. Beautiful story about a strong family. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story, what a generous gesture. You and your family are in my prayers, along with all Gold Star Mothers.

  4. Phyllis, my love, your heartfelt essay moved me to tears – I love you – I am sending you more strength – if that is possible..

  5. Thank you for such an eloquent telling of the story of your son. We are grateful for his service and sacrifice. Praying for your healing and continued strength.

  6. A wonderful heartfelt story of a boy and son so devoted to family and his country. You should be so very proud .. hoping you find comfort in the many memories you hold dear to your heart of Justin.

  7. Dennis M. Ostrowski, Sr

    Phyllis, thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I read it. I am the Newsletter editor of our American Legion Post 375 in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. I would like your permission to print and share your story with all the members of the Post. It would run in the November , 2013 issue. Thanks, Dennis Ostrowski

  8. Pingback: The Quiet Holiday: Gold Star Mother’s Day | Branching Out

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