FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — A group of mothers whose children died while serving our country are being treated to a special Mother’s Day event in Fayetteville Tuesday.
“I miss him every day,” Alison Shilling said about her stepson Bradley Shilling. “It never gets better, you just find a new normal.”
Bradley was serving in the Army National Guard when he was killed in Iraq by an IED Nov. 18, 2006.
The 22-year-old left behind a newborn son and a 2-year-old daughter.
Alison Bradley says he was planning to come home in two weeks, just in time for his wedding anniversary.
She remembers the last time she talked to him, two days before he was killed.
They chatted about the roast beef dinner she was planning for him, and as always he told her not to worry.
“He said ‘I’m going out on a mission, it could be a day, it could be three days, if you don’t hear from me don’t panic’,” Alison Shilling said.
Army Sgt. Eric Hernandez was a sniper scout for the 101st Airborne Division.
He was killed Dec. 4, 2007, by an IED while serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.
“One day we will see each other,” his mom June Augusta said. “When my time is done on this earth and I did what I’m supposed to do, I’ll get to put my arms around him.”
Augusta and Shilling both represent Gold Star Mothers – mothers whose children died while serving our country in the military.
“This is a group you never want to belong to,” Shilling said.
The mothers volunteer together and educate the public about what it means to be a Gold Star family.
“It was something that gave me a purpose, a mission to go out there, because they say when a loved one dies the worst thing you can do is never speak their name,” Shilling said.
“We want to talk about our child,” Augusta said. “We want to tell everybody what their name is, what they did.”
Sue Harris’ son Chris was serving in Afghanistan when he was killed by an IED in 2017.
Chris Harris had just found out he was going to be a father.
“Mother’s Day is really tough,” Sue Harris said. “I always got the sweetest messages from him on the cards he gave me for Mother’s Day, I still pull them out and read them.”
Fort Bragg veteran Tony Brown decided to show up for these moms during a difficult week for them.
“A lot of Gold Star moms, they lost their only child, and I want them to know they got another one right here just waiting for them anytime they need me,” Brown said.
Brown works with the veteran non-profit Southern CC Inc.
The group partnered with Fayetteville businesses to offer the mothers gift bags, pampering at Fusion Hair Salon, then dinner at Pierro’s, followed by making candles in honor of their sons at Hummingbird Candle Co.
“They’re still loved, always honored and never forgotten,” Shilling said.