Nov. 29, 2010, was the worst day of Kaye Jordan's life.
Her only son, Austin Staggs, a 19-year old private first class in the Army, was killed by an Afghan soldier during his first and only deployment to Afghanistan.
Jordan's voice still trembles as she reflects upon the day that would change her life forever.
"This is something that you don't ever want to have to accept," Jordan said. "You just do your best, because you can't change it. It took me three years to stop being in denial and to start accepting that I was never going to see Austin again."
Jordan, 62, described her son as the sort of young man who brought out the best in people and did his part to ensure that everyone felt welcome.
"Austin was just your normal boy," Jordan said. "He enjoyed being outdoors. He played some sports, but he wasn't really into sports that big. He liked fishing and hunting. He liked to make people laugh. He was a funny kid. He had a good personality and was sweet. He was kind to people at school that other people were not kind to. That was probably what was most special about Austin."
Jordan serves as the President of the Parker County Gold Star Families, a position she took on after her son's friend, Clayton Beauchamp, was killed in Afghanistan.
"For about a year and eight months, I didn't leave my house," Jordan said. "I didn't know how to do this. Then after we lost Clayton I was thinking we really needed to do something. I didn't want a scholarship for our kids. I wanted it to be something simple and important where everyone is remembered. So our whole goal was to build a veteran's memorial park here in Parker County."
Austin and Clayton went to Weatherford High School together and both worked for a time at a local Sonic in Parker County.
Beauchamp died on Aug. 7, 2012.
“Clayton was trying to get Austin to go into the Marines, but Austin wanted to go into the army,” Jordan said. “They were friends."
The Gold Star Families started the memorial park with a prayer garden, and then added a pavilion, a Gold Star memorial monument, and walk of honor for the Veteran's Memorial at Soldier Spring Park.
The City of Weatherford gave the organization the land, but Gold Star Families of Parker County had to raise $400,000 for its features.
"We were going to make sure this happened,” Jordan said. “So that's what we did to make sure our kids weren't forgotten."
Legacies Alive helped the Gold Star Families of Parker County by raising and donating money to defray the costs associated with the park, which is located at 109 Thrush Dr. in Weatherford.
With Memorial Day coming up, Jordan said Austin and Clayton's sacrifice takes on a special meaning.
"Memorial Day is hard, but it's necessary," Jordan said. "Because people need to remember what these young kids did and the sacrifices they made."
It is especially personal for Jordan and the other Gold Star Families.
"It rings different when you've lost someone at war, especially your child," Jordan said. "You think about it all the time. And May is hard, because you also have Mother's Day. On Mother's Day it was great, because we would go out to eat and then do whatever we were going to do. We would go swimming, or to the park or the zoo. We always did something that was really fun.
“Now Mother's Day is really hard. I don't go to church on Mother's Day because it's just too difficult. I'm thankful that all of the other mothers have their children and they are together, but I know what's too hard for me. So I do what's best for me."
Jordan cycled 800 miles from Denver to Weatherford in 2019 to help raise funds for a Gold Star memorial in Keller, and still works with Gold Star Families whenever she can.
This Memorial Day, the Parker County Gold Star Families will get together with Blue Star Families in Granbury for a ceremony and celebration.
"We will lay down the Memorial Day wreaths for their ceremony," Jordan said.
While the pain of losing her son is still ever present, Jordan wants to keep his memory and the memory of other fallen soldiers alive with continued work on the Memorial Park in Parker County and by supporting the causes of other Gold Star Families.
"Every day when I wake up I tell him good morning," Jordan said. "And I always tell him good night, so I still talk to him every day. And I know he would want me to live my life and be happy. So I do my best to accomplish that."
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