By Heather Randall
“I am so proud to be an American on this day… Glen is proud. Glen is honored. Glen is home.” I reread these words written by Kate Quigley, Glen Doherty’s sister. Most Americans are familiar with Glen; the 42-year old United States Navy SEAL killed in the September 11 Salafi-Jihadist assaults on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Kate forwarded this letter to family and friends following a solemn ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, which honored the lives of her brother, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods. My cousin Glenn e-mailed me this letter as he and Glen Doherty were close high school friends in Winchester, Massachusetts.
As many Americans will fret about their shopping list or decorating their home during the holidays, we must pause and think about Kate, and thousands of other sisters, wives and daughters “left behind” by their loved ones who died fighting for our country and our freedoms. For these women, these special days are no longer holidays, they are, as I call them, “Holeydays” – there are holes in their hearts as they welcome relatives into their home or place a home-cooked meal on the table. They are thrust into holiday traditions as the family matriarch, despite their feelings of shock, loneliness, confusion, and sadness.
Further, many surviving women can’t afford to buy traditional holiday dinners for their families. How will they show their children the loss of their father was worth the sacrifice? How will they, as President Obama stated, “…preserve the legacies of our fallen”?
We must support these women in their struggle to carry on and show them our gratitude for the personal sacrifices they made in supporting their loved ones’ desires to defend the United States of America. Most of these women understood the unthinkable possibility: their loved does not return to the U.S. alive. Despite this possibility, they carried on, sometimes raising a family alone.
To all women blessed to have our husbands, brothers, fathers and sons alive this holiday season: please take time to help inspire a woman who lost the most important person in her life. Help her to persevere even though it’s most difficult during holiday gatherings. Relay a prayer, give a gift or volunteer at a local outreach program, to show your appreciation for her sacrifice and to honor the men who meant so much to them – the men who dedicated their lives to make ours richer.
If you’re among the women suffering from the loss of a husband, son or father, you may find added comfort and support from organizations that work to help women like you. Wounded Wear (www.woundedwear.org), one of several organizations supported by Boot Campaign, provides for families of fallen service members. Boot Campaign also supports Special Ops Survivors (www.specialopssurvivors.org), an organization dedicated to serving needs of surviving spouses. In my area, Operation Homefront – California (www.operationhomefront.net) provides holiday meals to military families. And by the way, Operation Homefront has an ongoing Boot Drive with the Boot Campaign! That means for boot purchases made in the Boot Campaign’s online store that acknowledges Operation Homefront, the organization will receive $25 of the proceeds from the sale of boots from the Boot Campaign.
This holiday season, let’s remind surviving spouses, daughters and sisters, like Kate Quigley, we’re proud of them. Although Holeydays are upon these women, it’s my hope each will smile at some point during the season, realizing they are among the most treasured women in our country.
For more ideas on ways you can help visit bootcampaign.com.
Click here to read Boot Campaign’s most read blog: Operation Red Wing: A Widow’s Perspective