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Gold Star Families: Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice

Apr 23 2024
Drew Winkelmaier | The News-Review

When families send their loved ones off to a war halfway across the world, they never know that it may be the last time they see them. Some families in Douglas County, faced the horrifying reality and pain that comes with making that ultimate sacrifice.

When an active-duty service member dies the family will get a visit from a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer to notify them of their loved one’s death.

“I knew what they were there for,” Mike Linderman Sr. said remembering the day he learned of his son’s death fighting overseas in the Gulf War. “I just invited them in, had them sit down at the table. I expected them, I was already expecting them.”

Michael Linderman Jr.

Mike Linderman Sr. and his wife Danese said they first heard the news from their son’s wife Christy. He said even before Christy’s call he somehow knew something was wrong.

“You know how you just have a feeling like that, and you just brush it off,” Mike Linderman Sr. said.

His son, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Michael Linderman Jr., was 19 years old when he died on Jan. 29, 1991. He served as a light armored vehicle crewman from 1989-1991.

The Lindermans found comfort in the daily routine of life.

“I went to work the next day because it was my responsibility. I know that sounds strange, but it was my responsibility,” Mike Linderman Sr. said.

However, the media bombarded their family with questions wanting to know more about their son’s death and their reactions.

The Lindermans were not ready to make their grief the center of a news story. They wanted to take that grief in stride, coping with their loss a day at a time.

“Yes, you’re proud and you want people to know and understand and remember him. At the same time, it’s just like, leave me alone,” Danese Linderman said. “Why is ours more different than the rest of the hundreds of kids that fought?”

Their entire family felt the loss of Michael Linderman Jr. Everyone dealt with that grief in different ways.

“We talked about it a little bit and then we would talk about it a little bit more,” Mike Linderman Sr. said. “I say a little bit because we took it in little pieces. It took time, you don’t take it in one big chunk because you don’t make it through that conversation. You’ve got to talk for a bit and then you’ve got to leave it alone. Maybe it’ll be another week or four days and then you might talk about it some more.”

Mike Linderman Sr. explained the scar left behind from that kind of loss never truly heals.

The old saying of time heals everything was true for the Linderman family, although Michael Linderman Jr.’s absence is still felt through family gatherings.

Danese Linderman said even songs will send her into a state of sorrow.

Ames R. Osborne

State Representative Virgle Osborne lost a brother during the Vietnam War. Although he never got to meet him, the absence of Ames R. Osborne was felt in the family. Much like the Linderman’s grief, the Osbornes dealt with that grief in their own way.

“It was hard on my parents because he had been in an ambush. They didn’t get to have an open casket when he came back,” Osborne said. “I know it was hard on the family for a lot of years. My mom often cried about it, talked about it. My sisters today both talk very highly of him.”

Ames R. Osborne was killed in 1967. He volunteered for service as a member of the Marine Corps. Virgle Osborne explained how his brother was the member of the family everyone looked up to and wanted to emulate.

“He was the hero of the family,” Virgle Osborne said. “He was just very patriotic, that’s why he went to war. My dad did the same thing. My dad signed up for World War II when he was like 16 years old.”

Virgle Osborne went on to say his parents’ generation was a generation that did not wear their emotions openly for others to see. Instead, they grieved in private.

“A loss of anybody’s kid is a big deal but when you lose somebody in a war situation, I think it makes it even harder because I think families will start second guessing themselves as to why the person went, should they have been there, there’s all these emotions,” Virgle Osborne said. “That’s probably one of the biggest questions is how they died. They weren’t there when it happened.”

The torture of not knowing is something every family must face when a loved one is active military.

Dean R. Bright

Maddie Bright was 6 years old when her mother, Becky Bright, told her the news that her father died in Iraq. It wasn’t until she was a teen that she began to feel the weight of that absence.

Maddie Bright said her father had a sense of duty. Dean R. Bright was a volunteer firefighter, athlete and always looked for opportunities to help others.

When the nation was attacked, the call of duty resonated with Dean Bright.

“I remember when he told us that he had joined. My brother was really mad, but he understood more than I did,” Maddie Bright said. “I remember when he left, I was really pissed at that point and heartbroken.”

Maddie Bright remembers the day she said goodbye to her father. As she stood on a playground in Portland watching her father say his last goodbyes to his family, Maddie Bright remembers her vision getting blurry.

“I don’t think I really fully understood that dad was never really coming home,” Maddie Bright said.

Army Private First Class Dean Bright died in Iraq on Oct. 6, 2006. He volunteered for service in 2005 after the events of 9/11. When the Bright’s first learned of Dean Bright’s death, it was not confirmed until several days later.

“I can remember finding out after he was gone, his sister and I sitting there, and we knew he was at war, we knew where he was,” Becky Bright said. “It just never crossed our minds that he wouldn’t come home.”

Becky Bright learned of Dean Bright’s death while she was at work. She let her kids go on with their day as she needed to figure out how she was going to tell her kids. She eventually picked them up from their after-school activities and gathered at her sister’s house.

“I can remember walking up the steps to my aunt’s house and turning around to my mom crying and asking her why she was crying,” Maddie Bright said. “We went inside, and everyone was crying and it just still didn’t register, I think. I remember looking over at my brother Jarrod and he was just so sad, so distraught.”

Maddie Bright did not even understand the emotions she was feeling at the time.

“My freshmen year of high school is when it really settled in with me,” Maddie Bright said. “There are pictures of him around. There are memories, things like that. It was just not a fun year.”

Maddie Bright went on to say she began to realize her father was not going to be there when she graduates, and wouldn’t be around for weddings, birthdays and holidays.

Maddie Bright said her mother was the one that kept the family together.

“I think when something like this, tragic, happens to kids they don’t come back from it,” Becky Bright said. “My biggest goal was I didn’t want this to be thing that sent them down the bad path.”

Maddie Bright believes it is important to remember the sacrifices of Gold Star Families and to understand that Memorial Day is not just a day off from work. She believes thanking veterans and showing gratitude is one of the best ways of honoring those who serve and died during their service.

Remembering

Raeanne Rutledge is in the early stages of creating a Gold Star Memorial in Winston. Winston City Council unanimously voted in favor of the memorial April 15.

Originally, Rutledge wanted to build the memorial in Roseburg. According to Rutledge, no real progress was being made with Roseburg officials and she decided to move the memorial to Winston. Rutledge said it feels amazing to finally get the project rolling.

Rutledge lost her son Air Force Staff Sgt. Rory Berg to suicide when he was 24 years old. Rutledge wanted to create a place for Gold Star Families to go to, to remember their loved ones and to reflect.

“It feels amazing,” Rutledge said. “We want to bring people here, we want to bring people into the community and show them Winston. To bring those families down here and honor their loved ones is just incredible.”

Rutledge said the cost of the project is approximately $125,000. Although there is no official timeline of construction at this point, Rutledge said she is confident ground will break this summer.

“The idea was proposed, there was support from staff and that filtered up to council,” said Winston Assistant City Manager Thomas McIntosh. “It was unanimous because it’s a good thing that supports the community and honors those that have fought for the country.”