In memory of Troy, Chris, send names
Connie Gibson's message was urgent: She needed a phone number.
She came to town to pick up building supplies, still working to get her Repton home repaired from last year's hurricane.
It was there that the headline stopped her.
The headline to which she referred was the one announcing 24-year-old Christopher Winchester's untimely death in Iraq.
Gibson's son, Troy Jenkins, also died in service to our country. First a Marine, then an Army paratrooper, Jenkins was injured in Afghanistan in 2002. He was was critically injured I Iraq when a cluster bomb exploded as he tried to save an Iraqi child and members of his unit from being harmed.
Connie Gibson wanted to reach Chris Winchester's mother, to help her through the pain she knew Gail Williams must be suffering. But as we talked, she asked for two more things.
In the past two years, she has actively worked with other soldiers families, and has become a spokesperson for the SOS Fund. Chris Landry of Fairhope started SOS in Oct. 2004, raising money for families who had lost soldiers in Iraq. He soon found that many soldiers' families didn't need the money, but that the military needed to find a way to memorialize the troops. He came up with the idea of creating a bronze bust of each fallen soldier.
The organization puts the cost of one bronze statue between $11 thousand and $15 thousand. If the memorial is in a metropolitan area, the military often can provide resources and help organize the event; in more rural areas, SOS has to foot more of the bill.
So far, they have completed seven statues – including one of Troy Jenkins – and have 400 completed applications on file. Corporate sponsors are coming on board, and Landry is about to embark on a fundraising trip to Houston and California, meeting with both corporations and celebrities.
One way the group raises monies for "Statues of Servicemen" is with online sales of support bracelets. Additional information is available at http://www.sosfund.us/.
Connie Gibson asked for one other thing.
It's a great idea; the only possible answer is "yes."
So if you have a family member serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, please send us an email or call with information. We'll remind people that your loved one is serving our country and potentially in harm's way.
It's the least we can do to support our troops.
Michele Gerlach can be reached at 867.4876 or email@example.com.