Special Report: Wounds That Never Heal

Their numbers are small, but they are among a group of people who have sacrificed the most.

They are mothers whose children have died in service to our country.

“Upon a grateful nation, we are sorry to inform you…”

The words Starla Owens heard that every mother, every parent, who sends a child off to war hopes to never hear.

“I lived in Fountain, Michigan.  I drove 27 miles, I worked in Ludington. I drove 27 miles home for two soldiers to come and knock on the door to tell me that my son was deceased,” she said.

Starla’s son, Army Specialist Joseph Lancour, 21, was killed in Afghanistan on November 10, 2007.

The Ludington High school Graduate was on a mission with his group to check on a village.

They were ambushed on their way back to base.

Starla knew Joe went on a mission on November 6 and he said he’d call in three days. He didn’t call on November 9.

She went to work on November 10 and then there was a call from home.  She rushed there only to get the heart wrenching news.  “You really don’t think.  There’s just a numbness that fills your whole body. For a couple years after losing him, I had nowhere to turn.  I had a support group of family and friends.”

Starla longed to talk to others who understood what she was going through, despite well-meaning sympathy from others.  “I got tired of being hugged.  I got tired of hearing ‘oh I’m so sorry for your loss,'” she said.

That experience was her inspiration for starting an organization in Traverse City, Called Blue to Gold Star Moms.  “There isn’t and wasn’t a lot of things for the Gold Star families.” Starla said.

Blue Star moms are mothers who have children actively serving in the military and gold star moms are those who have children who have died in that service. The blue to gold star members gather to bond and share their experiences.  “I’m embracing other moms that are going through the emotions, the frustration, the anger.  When they cry, I can cry with them and I understand their tears.”

One of the group’s members is Kathy Moyer.  Her son Matthew served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. The Traverse City West graduate was blown off a roof by a rocket-propelled grenade.  “He had a broken back, he had a brain injury and he suffered from PTSD,” said Kathy.

Matthew would spend the next five years in recovery.  Kathy said he was on 13 different medications and died of a morphine overdose in January 2012.  “They had two different doctors giving him medication and they changed medication and one of the doctors didn’t know they had changed his medication. The medications didn’t work well together and his heart just gave out.”

Now Kathy looks for comfort and support for her grief with the Blue to Gold Star moms. “They’re just there for a shoulder to cry on or to give you a hug when you need one,” she said.

According to Starla, there are more than 130 Gold Star families in Northern Michigan, “We want them to know that there’s a connection, that if they need something, that they need someone to lean on, we’re here for them.”

The Blue 2 Gold Star Moms meets monthly and is open to any gold star family members. For more information, click here.