Katie Crowley is what the military calls a Gold Star Mom. It means she's had a son who has lost his life while serving in the military.
"To me, Memorial Day isn't about the BBQ's," Crowley said. "It's not a three day weekend. It's not about a sale. It's about homage, it's about paying honor to those who have laid down their lives for this country."
It will be eight years on July 4th since Katie's oldest son, Andrew Engstrom, died in Iraq.
She said still remembers the day he told her he was joining the army.
"It was in 2001 right after 9/11," Crowley said. "He came to me and said, ‘Mom, my country is under attack and I want to defend her.' I tried for a week to talk him out of it, but he wasn't having any part of it."
Engstrom's heart still beat red, white and blue.
"It brought out a lot of pride in me," she said," to know that he loved his country so much that he would want to fight for it."
At the age of 19, Engstrom went to basic training.
"On his 21st birthday, he graduated from basic training," Crowley said. "He wasn't even at Fort Hood for a month before he called home and said he had his orders and he was going to Iraq."
And in one last emotional visit before he was deployed, Crowley said she took home what all moms pray they will never have to read.
"He gave me a manila envelope and said, 'Mom, don't open this until you get home,'" Crowley said. "And when I got home, I opened it and I found his power of attorney to take care of business while he was away, and his will. I said, ‘What's this with your will? You're coming home.' And he just said, 'Mom, this is just the army taking care of business.'"
One year came and passed, and Engstrom visited home one last time in March 2007.
Just two months later, as the entire country celebrated Independence Day, Engstrom died on the Fourth of July in Iraq.
"To me, Memorial Day isn't just one day of the year," Crowley said. "It's every day. I look at his picture and wish I could hear him say, 'Mom, I love you.'"
Every Memorial Day since 2007, Engstrom has gone to visit her son.
He was laid to rest in Post, his headstone bearing a poem that hangs on her living room wall.
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