by Doug Dunbar | CBS 11
NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – “Sixteen days from coming home, a month away from his 30th birthday when we got notification that he’d been killed in Afghanistan,” said Gold Star father Terry Burgess.
On March 29, 2011, the world stood still for father Terry and stepmother Beth Burgess.
“There’s no manual for this, no instruction guide on how to handle this,” said Terry.
The same could be said for later seeing their son, Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Burgess, on camera in the actual gun battle that would take his life.
Documentary makers happened to be with burgess and his team, when the battle broke out.
“The Hornet’s Nest” would eventually reveal the final harrowing and deadly hours for Bryan, and five army brothers lost with him.
Watching his son, the Cleburne High School graduate, and stand out athlete give his all to the end, brought pride.
But the impact of Bryan’s death, nearly broke the man he called Dad.
“When the calls and greeting cards stopped coming, I starting sinking into depression. it was crushing. It was a crushing weight I had never felt before,” said Terry. “We were just looking for some way to connect with other parents. Who’d been through something, that you could just talk to.”
After years of searching for help, Terry and Beth decided to give, what they could not find.
The Gold Star Parents Retreat was born.
A long weekend away, with “only those who are just like you.”
“We’ve had Michigan, Indiana, Florida, California,” said Beth.
Moms and dads, who have lost a son or daughter while serving our country.
And it was in their hope to help others, that Terry and Beth finally found the help they needed.
Both Terry and Beth say, “This is working, this is what we needed so let’s help ourselves while we help other parents.”
Since their first retreat in 2016, the annual weekends have included writing messages on balloons, visiting memorials, but it’s eventually the hugs.
The kind of hugs that you only give, and get, from someone who understands.
That leads to the talk.
They can seek each other out, they have similar stories, and they can share. how did you deal with it, what did you run into? what were your problem, what were your issues and how did you solve them?
As proud as the Burgess’ are of their son’s service to our nation, the same could likely be said of Staff Sgt. Bryan Burgess’ pride, in them.
“We actually had one mom, she came up to me and she said, Terry. I heard the sweetest sound since my son died. I said, what’s that’,” said Terry.
The following is an interview by Doug Dunbar with Ralph Hanson, father of Kenne Hanson. Kenne was serving in the United States Air Force when he took his own life in 2014. His parents are among those who have attended the North Texas based program, Gold Star Family Retreat.
Doug also spoke with Sheila Mitchell-Murphy, and her husband Calvin about SPC Etienne Murphy, killed in action in Syria, on May 26, 2017. They discussed her son, her loss, and how the Fort Worth based Gold Star Family Retreat has helped her navigate the loss and the grief.