MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Kathleen Faircloth lost her only son Bradley while he was serving in Iraq on the day after Thanksgiving in 2004. For most people, Memorial Day is a time of vacation and celebration, but Kathleen hopes people remember the true meaning behind the holiday.
Kathleen remembers learning the news that Bradley was killed. She says she was watching the news as they were discussing the number of soldiers who died, and she wondered if her son was included in that number.
She had a feeling she would receive bad news, and when she was driving home on Thanksgiving weekend, she received the phone call that would change her life forever.
“I couldn’t move. I just got paralyzed just sitting there on Dauphin Street,” said Kathleen. “And all his high school buddies that were off at college had come in for the weekend, so they were at my house in about 30 minutes and life changed.”
Bradley was only 20 years old when he decided to join the Marine Corps, two years after he graduated from Davidson High School in 2002. His mother always knew Bradley had a passion for serving his country.
“I remember when Bradley was a senior when 911 happened, and he came home and he said, ‘I’m, ‘I’m enlisting’,” recalled Kathleen. “And I’m like, ‘No, you’re not going to college.’ He said, ‘You know, I’m the only guy in my class who wants to join the military?’ He meant it from that day forward.”
She says the 19-year journey of grieving her son’s death has not been easy.
“He had such a good sense of humor and I used to tell him, you know, you don’t need to be a class clown,” she said. “You know, I learned a lot about Bradley after he died. He did have a lot of fun behind my back, and his friends would share it with me. He was a nut, you know?”
She’s come to terms with Bradley’s passing, and even though he was her only son, her 15 dogs help keep her company.
She remains close to the people who knew her son best; still being able to celebrate milestones with other families that she now calls her own.
“God’s put me in positions to get to do things that, you know, people with kids will get to do,” said Kathleen. “Like go to the hospital, watch a grandkid be born, and I will see some babies born and I’ve just put myself like I’m an adoptable grandparent. His friends that loved him let me be part of their family. And I think that’s a gift, a humongous gift that they include me in their life because they have no real reason to.”
Kathleen wants this Memorial Day to be a reminder to everyone that it’s not all about the travel, trips and vacation. For her, it’s a day of appreciation for her son and for everyone else who’s served in the military.
She even says the true meaning behind it didn’t hit her personally until the Memorial Day following her son’s death.
“There’s thousands, hundreds of thousands of families in America that have lost someone to war before us because our freedom isn’t free,” said Kathleen. “And they’re sitting at home missing that person, that daddy, that mom or that grandpa, that uncle, that aunt and it was such a eye opening moment to realize.”