Let’s talk about the real Gold Star community and not the current political nonsense. Just for the record when my son died in 2011 I wrote to the then President and the first lady. In my naivete, I thought the President might have some answers and the first lady, a mom like me, would offer some comforting words, but I got nothing. No personal response from those in the White House made me feel like my son’s life didn’t matter. So my advice, don’t listen to what either side is saying right now about Gold Star families. It’s all painful media hype.
Then there is Heather Kuhn. Heather was the Navy Gold Star Program Coordinator assigned to my area of the country. Coordinators assist families with benefit questions connecting them to valuable resources concerning bereavement and financial planning support. They also provide opportunities to celebrate our fallen service member through events connecting the Gold Star community. When Heather reached out about creating this cookbook I was all in.
It really wasn’t a tough choice picking a recipe that William liked best. I did think about his favorite Boston cream pie and even a couple of recipes that he created himself…”waffles supreme” and a sandwich he called “the American Hero”, but clearly this chicken dish was the one he asked for more than any other. He loved a little bit of chicken fried.
I believe we all can relate that when faced with loss and grief and mourning – which is not a phase or a stage, but rather a journey – many fond memories are often brought back with familiar sounds and comforting smells, and the tastes of the meals shared with those we have loved and lost, but cherish still.
I am grateful she was inspired to reach out to Gold Star families and compile a book filled with recipe favorites and memories of our fallen service members. This book is not for sale, but available for free electronically for those wishing to read and honor our fallen heroes.
How to dispense with our deceased loved one’s things and when is such a difficult question to answer. How long do I leave his room untouched? How long will those clothes hang in the closet? Do I continue to display his photos? What do I do with all those important possessions? Society will say get rid of everything ASAP and move on, but that is the wrong answer. There is no right answer. It is an individual choice that takes time to figure out. Just remember not to let “things” interfere with your grief. I found the more of his possessions I gave away the more I healed and celebrated his life. That is what worked for me. What works for you? What I have done over the past 4 years is gradually shared William’s things with people I knew could either use them or would keep them safe in their care. Many of his personal items had connections to these wonderful people. For instance, all his military gear and uniforms were returned to Camp Le Jeune soon after he died hoping other marines and sailors from his platoon could put them to good use. Two years later I received the following message which mended a huge piece of my broken heart: <<Mrs. Keys, I do have to say that tonight I brought Will into the delivery room with me. He used to have this camouflage bandana I ended up with it when you sent a box of his military garbs. I got to wear it in the operating room when I scrubbed in to help the doctor deliver our little girl. Lots of love to you and yours and we thank you for the well wishes.>>
the perfect book for barracks living
Next month will mark 4 years since William died and I am still sharing his stuff. I told you it takes time. Just recently I sent this cookbook to my friend Debbie of Culinary Cellar fame. The time was right. I had the privilege of visiting with Debbie and her thousands of treasured cook books back when William was in boot camp at Great Lakes, IL. This book, a Christmas gift from me to him, was hard to part with, but I knew there was no one better than Debbie to keep it safe. Turns out Debbie is “honored” to have it and knew the author to be a judge at several of the Pillsbury Bake-Offs. I wonder if David Joachim was at the bake-off in San Diego on the day William decided to join the Navy?
no surprise I wrote: “be safe” on the inside cover
When it comes to cooking there is never any question that I keep a few canned goods in my pantry. How and when to use them is easy. I use a lot of canned beans like chick peas and kidney beans and tons of canned tomatoes and coconut milk. Although I haven’t tried these recipes I thought I’d share a few that appealed to William.