Grieving mother finds solace in helping out others like her

Today is time for reflection for Abingdon's Carol Roddy, whose son died in Iraq in '06

May 13, 2007|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

Carol Roddy will not get a Mother's Day card from her youngest son today.

There won't be any flowers from him. And there won't be a Mother's Day dinner with him. Navy Petty Officer David Roddy, who specialized in defusing explosives, died in Iraq last fall. This is her first Mother's Day without him.

"I was dreading Mother's Day," she said.

Since her son's death, Roddy has been on a mission to revive the Maryland chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers - a support group created in 1928 by grieving mothers who lost their children in World War I. The group is a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization that seeks to "further all patriotic work," according to its charter.

Parents who have lost their sons or daughters in war would receive a gold star as a symbol of the soldier's sacrifice. The star would be displayed on the front window of the home. The mothers in the group would support each other, veterans and their families. The state chapter had mostly disbanded because most mothers were from the Vietnam War era and were aging and dying, Roddy said.

Locating families of fallen soldiers from Iraq had been a difficult endeavor, so she contacted Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's office for help. Roddy hopes to have a revived chapter meeting for the state's military families in June.

"This was my way of honoring David and helping other mothers cope with their losses," she said.

In the foyer of his parents' home, an American flag carefully tucked into a triangle rests on a wooden table. The table is adorned with Roddy's pictures: a smiling, freckle-faced boy at his first communion, a youthful groom on his wedding day and a beaming father surrounded by his wife and three children - Jessica, 10, Michael and Matthew, both 7.

Roddy graduated from Bel Air High School and Harford Community College. He met his wife, Cristale, a former Edgewood resident, at a video store. After enlisting in the Navy, he worked in the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit and went to Iraq in June 2006.

Two weeks before his death, Roddy had been shaken after witnessing the death of Chief Petty Officer Paul Darga, his partner in the bomb disposal unit, his family said.

"He saw his partner's body parts flying in front of him," his mother said. "He was very upset. The Navy offered to send him back, but he said no."

"He gave the reason that he was there to do a mission, and he wanted to complete that mission," added Bob Roddy, his father.

On Sept. 16, Roddy defused a roadside bomb in the Al Anbar province. As he headed back into a truck, a second bomb exploded, killing the 32-year-old, family members said. The morning of his death, he had written a last e-mail to his mother. It read: "Don't worry, Mom. Things are busy. I am safe now ... Love: me."

At Roddy's funeral, about 3,000 people lined the streets in his hometown of Abingdon waving American flags. His parents received letters from people as far away as Illinois, one offering to draw an oil painting of their son, another volunteering to stitch quilts for their grandchildren.

"People we didn't even know came from all over, offering their support," Carol Roddy said. "They came out. And we're still getting support."

"It made us feel like we weren't going through it alone," Bob Roddy said.

The last time he saw his son was Father's Day last year. The two played golf together.

"Nobody kept score because we did pretty bad," Bob Roddy said.

He hasn't been near a golf course since.

"It doesn't hurt as much as it [did] before," Carol Roddy said. "But he's still in our thoughts every day, no matter what we do."

The Roddys expect this month to be especially difficult, with Memorial Day and a string of other ceremonies. Roddy's mother, wife and daughter are heading to the 42nd Academy of Country Music Awards. Country singer Tim McGraw has invited the family to join him onstage, along with 99 other families of fallen soldiers, during a performance on the awards show Tuesday.

His mother plans to bring a poem the family wrote and hopes to give it to McGraw as a thank you. One of the lines: "He died an American hero, doing what he loved the best. But now it is his time to be with the Lord and rest."

madison.park@baltsun.com

The American Gold Star Mothers can be contacted through their Web site at: http:--www.goldstarmoms.com/agsm/Home/index.htm.

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