Myrtle Beach Military Appreciation Days!!!!!
How can we ever thank Blue Star Mother Jan Igoe and the Loris Scene for this article.
This article taken from this week's edition of the Loris News
Military Family Loses Son , a Combat Vet and a HERO
|The Patriot Guard Riders who stood outside Goldfinch Funeral Home Beach Chapel in the rain on that gray Saturday afternoon had never met Larry "Curtis" Applegate. But they embraced him as one of their own.|
A group of Coastal Carolina Blue Star Mothers, who have children serving in the military, came to console and support the family. They didn't know Applegate either, but they understood his family's grief and prayed it would never be theirs.
Applegate's heartbroken mother sobbed hysterically, clutching a photo of Curtis, her only son. Seated two pews away from the flag-draped coffin, she rocked back and forth as her husband tried in vain to ease her sorrow.
"I want my baby back," she cried. "I just want my baby."
The 27-year-old Army specialist, a decorated combat veteran stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., had come home to be buried next to his grandmother at Ocean Woods Cemetery in Myrtle Beach. Applegate was being treated for post-traumatic stress and doing well in the program, his superiors said. No one could explain why he took his own life.
Applegate's good friend and best man at his July 2007 wedding, Eric Shuping of Murrells Inlet, had just spoken to him days before. They were making plans to visit each other's families and everything sounded good - except for the killer headaches Applegate had been suffering since his deployment.
Applegate served as a machine gunner in Iraq, where he was hit by a roadside bomb in April 2006, his stepfather, Danny Patton, said.
"He helped his platoon helped rout some insurgents in Iraq. They were getting ready to overrun an Iraqi checkpoint," said Lt. Col. Andrew Grantham, who commands a warrior transition unit for combat sick and injured. "They would have shot our soldiers and the Iraqi police officers. His actions allowed coalition to retake the area."
Applegate was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for Valor and a Purple Heart for schrapnel wounds to his shoulder. Patton said that's when his stepson's earaches, memory loss and headaches began.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that deputies responding to a domestic violence call at Applegate's home Jan. 17 found his wife, Krista Applegate, outside, while her husband fired rifles inside the residence. About an hour later, he was dead.
"His wife said they got in an argument that night. She said she didn't remember what it was about," his mother, Cindy Patton, said. "That's what I don't understand. Two days before all this happened, he was happy. I don't have no closure because I don't have no answers."
The Army has been searching for those answers since post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and depression began taking a high toll on service members returning from combat and extended tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Thursday, the Army reported 128 confirmed suicides and 15 possible suicides in 2008, the highest annual figure since 1980, when tracking began. It's the fourth year that Army suicide rates have increased, according to the Army Web site.
At a military suicide prevention conference in Texas last month, Army Maj. Gen. Mark Graham from Fort Carson - Applegate's base - was the keynote speaker. Graham lost his 21-year-old son, a successful ROTC cadet, to suicide, according to the American Forces Press Service.
Graham told the audience that his son may have feared career repercussions if he disclosed his depression. The military has been striving to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health issues and is urging troops who need help to get it.
"[Applegate's suicide] is still under investigation. It's something we deal with every day. He was doing everything we asked him to do," said Lt. Col. Andrew Grantham who commands a Warrior Transition Unit for combat sick and injured. "He was considered low risk. We honestly don't know what some of the triggers are that set these individuals off."
Shuping isn't sure he'll ever come to terms with Applegate's death. He remembers his friend "like a brother;" a good man who loved his family. Applegate moved to the beach in the late 90s to care for his grandmother while she battled cancer. Now he lay next to her.
"I honestly believe the military is leading the way in treating anxiety disorders. We're learning a lot more about brain injuries," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Bunch of Ft. Carson. "We learn something new every day."
As the service ended, the soldiers who carried the casket and folded the flags for the family gathered nearby. It had been a long rainy day.
"Keep your heads up," their commanding officer told them. "Remember, we're soldiers."
The Blue Star Highway sign on Third Ave., Conway in front of the Old Courthouse.
I Am A Blue Star Mother
I am the mother of a United States Service Member.
My child gave me this title.
I will give him a heart full of wonder at his accomplishments and a voice that praises his desire to serve.
I will place my faith in his military training and in God’s protection I will give him the prayers that will follow him where I cannot.
I will be strong when I want to cry and brave when I want to cower.
He will know that I am behind him every step of the way.
Because I bear the title of Mother of a United States Service Member.
People who don't have children in a war zone cannot fully understand what we go through every second of every day. Our life is no longer what we used to consider normal. Now normal is watching TV news and flipping back and forth between CNN and Fox. Having the radio AND TV on so you don't miss anything. It's reading the paper for any details; it's seeing something in a store that makes you cry, or having someone say, "how are you?" and it brings you to tears. It's checking your email at 2, 4, 5, 6 am just in case....
It's seeing the flag and knowing that is the symbol of America that is sewn on the soldiers' uniforms, the symbol they are making a stand for. It's tying yellow ribbons to anything that will stand still. It's wearing the picture of your son over your heart and you reach up and touch it without even being aware of it. And you pray. And you remember the little boy who you would not even allow to cross the street by himself. And you pray.
That is our "normal." When the soldiers return, they will never be the same. But neither will we.
We will have grown and found strength within us that we never knew we had. And we have made the best of friends with others who carry a piece of our heart in theirs.