ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) – A family in Arlington is mourning the loss of a son killed in Afghanistan. But when military officers arrived to tell his mother, her only thought was which son? At the time, the family had three sons, actively serving in the Marines.
The McGeath family is certainly unique. There are seven children in all. Amber is the firstborn, and then came five boys.
“I guess I gave birth first to a hockey team because I had five. Then, we had a sixth son and then we said…platoon!”
The three older boys, Philip, Kenneth and Allen became Marines. Philip in 2009, Kenneth in 2010 and Allen in 2011. Then, all three were serving at the same time.
“Until this tragedy, we’ve been very, very blessed. We’ve been very lucky,” Phyliss McGeath said, with a catch in her voice.
She remembers the day she saw the three military officers.
Phyliss works for American Eagle Airlines at DFW International Airport. The three Marines were waiting for her in an office.
Her husband, David, a retired Master Sergeant with the Air Force, was waiting with them.
Phyliss said she’s been a military wife. She also had a friend go through the same situation. She also knows what it means when three Marines shows up.
“I know that when three Marines come, it’s not good. They only come for death notifications,” Phyliss said.
So, she knew before anyone said a word.
“I knew one of my sons had died. But I didn’t know which one.”
They told her it was Philip, her oldest son and explained that he had been killed in Afghanistan that day, January 18, 2012. He was 25.
Philip’s wife declined media attention. But, Phyliss welcomed it.
“I don’t want my son slinking into the country like he has something to be ashamed of. I want it shouted from the rooftops that my son Philip – Corporal Philip Dane McGeath – died very honorably, by a cowardly suicide bomber,” she said.
Philip leaves behind Sarah, the high school sweetheart he married in 2010. He also leaves behind his mother, father and his sister.
Then, there are his five brothers, two who are still serving in the Marines and two who still want to become Marines.
“My Vincent, he’s 13. He’s the next one closest. He wants to be a Marine,” Phyliss said.
“He also says he wants to go to college. But, you know, that’s a familiar tune to me,” she said with a laugh.
“And, Cooper, the baby. He wants to wear the uniform. He wants to be like his brother.”
She has no thoughts of changing their minds.
“The choice is theirs. And once they make that choice, I’m 100-percent plus behind them,” she said.
When it comes to the McGeaths and their military sons, one can’t help of thinking about the movie “Saving Private Ryan.”
It’s about the loss of three brothers during wartime and the effort to save the fourth. It was recently on one of the cable television channels.
“I know a lot of friends watching it this weekend were thinking of Philip and me and my boys,” she said.
But Phyliss is not afraid for her sons.
“I’ve given them to the United States. Yes. Because I’m a patriot and a believer.”
Philip, she said, had attended the University of Nebraska. But after his third year, he said he just couldn’t continue. He wanted to become a Marine.
“Ever since he was little, he wanted to be a Marine,” Phyliss said.
While she doesn’t think he would have liked to be called a hero though, she wants his life to be celebrated.
“I want people to know, so the Taliban doesn’t win, that my son died for a reason,” she said.
Philip was two weeks shy of a month-long leave when he was killed.
The entire family was supposed to get together in March. They hadn’t been able to do that since Amber’s birthday in September of 2008.
Now, they will gather for his funeral service, which will be held Saturday, January 28 at 10 a.m., at Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church on 2100 North Davis Drive in Arlington.
The body of Corporal Philip Dane McGeath will be returned to North Texas in the next day or two.
And whether or not he wanted to be called a hero — he will always be remembered as one by his family and countrymen.