For Gold Star mothers Susan McClamrock and Janice Badgley, sacrifice is no longer just an honorable concept. It has a name.
It bears the name of their sons James F. McClamrock and Scott G. Badgley, both of whom sacrificed their lives serving in the U.S. military.
Army Pfc. James McClamrock was 22 when he was fatally shot by a suicide gunman on an Iraqi base in Balad, Salah ad-Din Province on Sept. 7, 2010. He and other U.S. troops were finishing a break when the shooter entered and relentlessly fired.
“My son just happened to be right there in front, so he just hit him at point blank range and killed him instantly,” McClamrock said.
Staff Sgt. Phillip C. Jenkins of Decatur, Ind., was also killed in the incident. Nine others were wounded.
“If anyone would have had to die that day, he would have put his hand up,” Susan McClamrock said of her son. “He was like that – very selfless.”
The McClamrocks live in Concord, and James and his wife, Shannah, lived in Huntersville. James served for 11 months and was one of the first service members killed under Operation New Dawn.
Kannapolis resident Janice Badgley lost her son just before Mother’s Day in 2009. Marine Master Sgt. Scott Badgley served 18 years and died from vaccination complications on his 38th birthday.
He was bit by a bat while cleaning up his Pennsylvania yard prior to being deployed. The rabies vaccination and his deployment vaccinations were lethal combination.
“He was a Marine through and through,” Janice Badgley said. “Scott had a good heart. He wanted to help all his life anybody he could possibly help. The way he dealt with that was the service.”
Scott’s younger brother, Steven, who serves in the Army, was able to attend his brother’s funeral, but had to return to Iraq.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve done and ever will do,” Badgley said of burying one child and sending the other back to war.
Though their sons served for different lengths of time and died in different situations, they both lost children who gave their lives serving their country in a time of war, the mothers emphasized.
“They had both gone in to defend our country,” Susan McClamrock said. “That’s what we look at. We don’t differentiate the type of death it was. We only look at that we’ve lost our child. There’s no elevation of death.”
But there is an elevation of pride as the two men died heroes, the mothers said.
“They have given up their lives to keep us safe,” McClamrock said. “They had an agenda, and that agenda was selfless. If you look at the soldiers’ creed, it’s nothing, but being selfless and protecting and loving your country.”
It’s a concept that younger people have a hard time understanding – that every privilege we have today is a result of the sacrifices made by servicemen and women through out the country’s history, she continued.
Memorial Day is a time to reflect on that sacrifice, the mothers said, noting that the holiday has been lost in its commercialization.
Before James’ death, Memorial Day was a “great day to have a picnic,” McClamrock said. Now when she sees weekend sales advertisements that have no mention of the holiday’s purpose, she gets frustrated as it teaches children that it’s a big sale day, a day to take off and grill outside.
“I was like that before,” she said. “I don’t find fault with people who do that. I was that person.”
“I was, too,” Badgley agreed.
The first Memorial Day after James’ death left her family in confusion.
“It was like, ok, what do we do today?” McClamrock said. “Do we grill and do we eat and pretend like everything’s great? … Our Memorial Day is missing our loved one. That’s what we think about.”
It’s commonplace for military families to set an extra plate for the missing person on Memorial Day, the Gold Star mothers said. It’s to be mindful, not only of those who died, but of the active duty men and women away from their families.
The mothers' final message was to encourage parents to educate their children on the purpose and meaning of Memorial Day and to keep the alive the memories of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.