Henderson wife the new president of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

HENDERSON, Kentucky — When she joined the national Gold Star Mothers group after the death of her son in 2012, Henderson’s Sarah Whitledge Taylor had no idea that she would one day be the organization’s president.

She just wanted to do something with her grief.

The group, officially known as American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., is a nonprofit organization made up of mothers of children who died in military service. There are around 1,000 members. Taylor was elected president in June.

“There’s nothing worse for a mother than losing a child,” Taylor said. “Although our stories are different, they are the same. We’ve all made the decision not to let our grief control us, but to turn to others instead.”

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The group visits veterans in hospitals and nursing homes and collects coats and backpacks for homeless veterans. They also volunteer for special projects involving veterans in their communities and are part of initiatives like Wreaths Across America.

Like Grace Darling Seibold, the founder of AGSM, whose words she often quotes, Taylor said she realized after her son’s death that “self-grieving is self-destructive” and wanted to deal with it by helping others.

Sarah Whitledge Taylor bends down to lay a rose at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, at a WW100 event in 2018.

“We find ways to serve veterans and their communities,” Taylor said. “It’s how we choose to process the loss and grief we feel at the loss of our children.”

On Memorial Day 2012, she met Cathy Mullins of Owensboro, Kentucky, whose son Brandon was also killed in Afghanistan. The two decided to get the AGSM up and running in the state of Kentucky. In 2017 she was involved in the national board for the first time.

“Honestly, I thought it would be an honor to carry our banner at national events,” she said. “I never thought I’d stay on the board for long, and I never thought I’d be president. These moms are strong and brave women, so resilient.”

Taylor knows all about being resilient. Her son, Army Spc. David W. Taylor died in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in March 2012 as a result of an accident on the base while his unit was preparing for a five-day mission. he was 20

“I never asked for details because I don’t really want to know,” his mother said. “All I know is that someone didn’t properly secure or dispose of ammunition. About 90 percent of the report was redacted. But I’m fine with what happened, I just don’t want to know that he suffered or was in pain.”

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Sarah Whitledge Taylor

Taylor said a common refrain among Gold Star moms is to remember how they lived, not how they died. This is how they keep the memories of their loved ones alive. Taylor said remembering her son in this way makes the pain of his loss more bearable.

“I usually start by saying he was a handful,” she said, laughing.

“All his life David wanted to be in the military,” she said. “He was a little patriot. Two days after his 18th birthday he joined the army. He was a natural leader. His friends loved him and would have followed him to the ends of the earth.

“As a mom, you always think your kids are pretty cool anyway,” she said. “But when I heard people talking about him, I understood that he had a really good heart and put others before himself. That made me so proud.”

Taylor said after her son’s death, she was told he was the first person to welcome a new soldier to the base and asked what he could do to help the newcomer.

Hearing the stories of other Gold Star moms is something Taylor is passionate about, as is building relationships with people who often become lifelong friends. She plans to make this a cornerstone of her approach as AGSM National President.

David W Taylor

“I will try to make sure everyone feels loved and knows they are important to this organization,” she said. “And I will do everything in my power to make sure they feel loved, respected and honored and that their child is never forgotten.”

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