I am a Gold Star Mother, not by choice, but by God's will.
Travis joined the Marine Corps 10 days after High School Graduation, in 2003. Nothing or no one could’ve stopped him and definitely no one forced him to sign on the dotted line. Travis wanted to serve his Country, and hopefully make a difference, in anyway he could to our great Nation. Travis was born to serve. Unfortunately, devastatingly enough, My Precious Travis was KIA in Ramadi, Iraq on April 6, 2004 in a hostile ambush with 9 other Marine Brothers and 1 Navy Coreman. Travis was just 19 years old and had only had been in Iraq 3 short weeks.
Travis, at his young age, lived and loved life to it‘s fullest. A young man who was very comfortable in his own skin. He did more in his short life than most do in a lifetime.
Travis loved History. He watched it on TV every chance he could. Travis was born on Memorial Day weekend in Red, White, and Blue and 19 yrs. later was brought home to me, draped in Red, White, and Blue again. He is now also a part of History. I'm so very Proud of his Courage, Honor, Commitment and Ultimate Sacrifice for family, friends, strangers, you and me.
The day I received the news from 3 Marines in my carport, as I stood limp, I vowed to my Son, “There’s a reason God took you from me and it's a calling for me to help other Gold Star Parents, as from my knowledge, and to never let you, My Son, be Forgotten”. Never in my wildest imagination could I have anticipated the Journey I was to embark on.
Unfortunately, I have met way too many Gold Star Parents and Families as I never wanted any more to walk in my shoes. I have been to as many Fallen Services as I possibly could attend to extend my Love and Support and to share my personal information so to provide an ear to listen ,or a shoulder to cry on, anytime they may want to reach out. I'll be there.
Through this journey Travis has placed me on almost everyday there’s something unreal, or amazing he has brought to me. I tell him he sure comes up with some doozies which is fact. I have been to many places I never thought I'd fly to (I hate flying) and met so many incredible people, throughout this great Country. All in my Sons Honor. Travis knew in my heart, my Mission in his Honor was not going to be complete, till I had the Honor of meeting Our President George W. Bush. Travis, I tell him “Son, you just keep working miracles everyday“. In June 2008 I wrote a letter to President Bush telling him my daughter, grandson and I where going to be in Washington, D.C. for an event put on by the White House Commissions affairs in September, “A Time of Remembrance” and would love to be able to meet with him, as I am a Gold Star Mother. I got a regretful reply that he would not be there in town at that time, his apologizes. Well I figured that was my last chance as I knew I would not be going to D.C. , till at least May of 2009 for Memorial Weekend. And President Bush would be leaving Office in Jan. 2009.
Travis once again was taking care of his Mother. I received a phone call on Jan. 3, 2009 from a White House representative addressing the letter I had written the President in June . He was inviting me and my family to a Gold Star Family Reception at the White House on Wed., Jan. 14th with President Bush. I was speechless to say the least. The next day by email I had received a personal invitation to a Reception at the White House with President Bush. We only had a weeks notice but it was emmensely worth it all.
I am Blessed to have a personal Friend/Escort to take me to Wash. D.C., for this amazing event. Doug, is A USMC Sgt. Maj. retired. and an outstanding Patriot Guard Riders, Ride Captain, in Calif. I'm in the Best hands possible, as we head out on Fri. nite Jan. 9th, driving across this great Country.
We took the Southern route, as hopeing for warmer weather. Which we were in deed extremely Lucky. roads clear, and all went well. Coldest got was in New Mexico, 11 degrees, damn cold.....snow all on the sides, lil bit of snow flurrys, that was it.
By Sat. nite we had reached Ark. That is where my oldest Son, and his family live. So we surprised them with a short hr. ish visit, as haven't seen them in 2 yrs. So that was very special, and wonderful. Altho not long enough. But we had lots of ground to cover yet.
Sun. evening about 6:30ish, we got to So. Carolina. Thats where Doug's Daughter and her family live. We went to dinner with them. And got to spend 2 days there. Another wonderful visit.
Tues. morning, got up early and headed to D.C., about a nother 7 hr. trip, as we were picking my Daughter, Tiffany and Grandson Trayvon, from the Airport, @ 4. We got into town appx. 2:30. all went as planned, so Blessed.
Went to dinner, after regrouping at Hotel. Then early to bed, all were so exhausted.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009, the Gold Star Families were invited into the White House at 2:00 PM . We had gone thru all the securitey measures. Once inside we were allowed to take as many pictures as we liked . Normally you’re not allowed cameras at all in the White House. So that was outstanding, as it was. Then at 2:45 PM we were shown into a large room set up with chairs. At 3 PM President and Mrs. George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, came into the room. Wow, my heart about stopped. It was beyond what words can capture, and way more than I expected. We never had a clue, we would be meeting all of them.
President Bush addressed us all ,and with a very heartfelt and emotional short speech he welcomed us. We listened briefly. Then he said he would join and greet every family individually in the next room over. Throughout the afternoon we were catered too and treated like royalty with genuine support, honor and respect of our Lost Loved Ones. While the Families waited our turns, we were taken into a huge reception room ,where a gorgeous table was set elegantly with hors d'oeuvres, pastries and drinks. Gosh its something you see in the movies, not ever expecting to be apart of it.
As we waited ,and wondered throughout the rooms, mingling, we met Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, Former Secretary of the Navy ( When our guys were in ) Gordon England, Captains, Cpls, so so many. It was amazing.
My daughter, grandson, Sgt. Major escort and myself waited patiently for our turn as we were not in a hurry. Finally they got us and escorted us to the room where President Bush graciously met us at the doorway, greeted us in. I was so nervous but he gently kissed me, put his arm around me and guided us into the center of the room. He then greeted my daughter, grandson, and Sgt. Major with the same respect. The nervousness disappeared and an amazing calmness fell over the room instantly. His humbleness and sincerity was something I will never forget.
Our personal visit was about 15/20 minutes.
A man of his stature, power looked into my eyes and never wavered. My eyes filled with tears as I spoke of my son, Travis,and his Brothers, so did his. He assured me Thier lives were not Sacrificed in vain, and they will never be forgotten. We laughed ,we joked, we were at ease. President Bush signed a few things I had brought with me. One was a picture of me with Him, and he was a wax figure, at a Wax museum, we'd went to the past Sept. visit. He wrote on it, Diane, heres from the real one. We got a lil laugh out of it. He then signed a picture of Travis' son, in Travis' uniform, I brought, as Dylan couldn't be there. Then to our real surprise, he coined us all, with his Presidential coin. Wow! He had his arm around me and held my hand the whole visit. You could feel the Love he was generating for us in our heartache and pain. He again kissed me as we said our goodbyes. What a memorable day in our lives. Especially for my Grandson, can you imagine...
President George W. Bush has my full admiration and respect for a very difficult job well done. Mission complete to the best of his ability, in the time allotted, for this great Nation.
On Thurs, Morning early we took Tiffany, and Trayvon to catch thier flight home.
That afternoon, the Sgt. Maj., had a surprise lined up for me. Doug had talked with a MSgt., and set up a personal visit with ,THE Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps, at the Pentagon. Sgt. Maj. met with us at 2:30 p.m. I'm just in aw. Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, greeted us with outstanding Hospitality. Just a wonderful man, and his Staff as well.
We visited in his office, for a bit. Then he graciously signed his personal photos for us, also 1 for Dylan. Sgt. Maj. then coined me, and then asked me to give one also to Dylan. His are very unique, they are shaped like a Sgt. Maj. Chevron, really cool looking.
He then had his Gunney Sgt. take us 2 on a personal tour of the Pentagon. It was outstanding.
Its hard to capture, such a special time, event, into words, to discribe, to its, justice. But hope this gives you alil insight.
Yet one more chapter, I need to put, into a book I need to write. The Journey has been unreal.
Yet, Travis and my journey shall continue, as needed.
We Pray for World Peace
Proud Mother of Lcpl Travis J. Layfield, USMC