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    Five Gold Star Families get mortgages paid off through foundation

    Five Gold Star Families get mortgages paid off through foundation

    Photo By Jacqueline Thomas | Jennifer Allgaier and Cathy Chay, Gold Star family members and survivors, hold hands...... read more read more



    Story by Jacqueline Thomas 

    Fort Bragg Garrison Public Affairs Office

    FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Under partly cloudy skies, a warm breeze and the Iron Mike statue appearing as if he was casting a watchful eye over the audience, five Fayetteville, North Carolina Gold Star Families were recognized by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, May 18.

    The Families of Staff Sgt. Kyu H. Chay, 3rd Special Forces Group; Staff Sgt. Jacob Hess, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade; Sgt. 1st Class Shawn P. McCloskey, 7th Special Forces Group (7th Group was still at Fort Bragg at the time of his death); Sgt. 1st Class Keith Callahan, 82nd Airborne Division; and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Allgaier, 82nd Aviation Brigade, were presented with documents confirming the mortgages held on their homes were completely satisfied.

    “In 2018, the Gold Star Family Home Program was introduced to address a significant need,” said Andrew McClure, national community engagement coordinator for Tunnel to Towers. “We honor the legacy of those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving by providing mortgage-free homes to surviving spouses with young children or satisfying mortgages held on existing homes.”

    Nancy Gass, manager of the Gold Star Family Home Program and the first recipient of a home when the program was established, said the Gold Star Family community has grown. She emphasized she’s no longer alone and has many in her circle nationally from Washington State to North Carolina.

    “I am so thankful to say I have Cathy Chay in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Jenny Allgaier, Jessica McCloskey, Dody Callahan and Jessica Hess,” said Gass as her voice trembled with emotion. “I have them and they have me, and we are Gold Star Strong.”

    Following Gass’ remarks, she opened the platform for the official presentation to the Families.

    Dody Callahan, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Callahan, was the first recipient.
    When reading a tribute about Callahan, Gass said he was 31 when he died. He was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was conducting a combat patrol south of Baghdad on Jan. 24, 2007.
    As Dody sat with her children alongside the other Gold Star Families, she listened intently as Gass continued to read.

    She said, “Dody has these words after losing her husband, ‘Keith loved his Soldiers and his dedication to duty lasted to the end shown by the fact that he gave his life to protect his Soldiers. He would now want his Soldiers to bravely forge ahead in this mission and continue his legacy.’”

    Jack Oehm, retired battalion commander of the Fire Department of the City of New York and Tunnel to Towers board member, read a tribute about Chief Warrant Officer 3 Allgaier as Allgaier’s wife, Jennifer, dabbed her eyes. Allgaier lost his life at 33 when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was piloting crashed in the Upper Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, after being shot down by insurgents on May 30, 2007.

    In a tribute about Sgt. 1st Class McCloskey, whose wife, Jessica and their children were unable to attend the event, Gass said he was 33 and killed when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device while he was conducting a mounted patrol in Ghur Ghuri, Afghanistan, on Sept. 16, 2009.

    Gass added that retired Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr., then the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command at the time of McCloskey’s death, said in a statement, “‘These are men who had choices. ‘They are extraordinarily talented and intelligent men who could have done anything they wanted to do.’”

    As the tributes continued, Oehm said Staff Sgt. Hess was 34 when he died. Hess’ military vehicle rolled over as he carried out a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana, on May 15, 2019. Oehm added the last words from Hess to his wife, Jessica, came via a text message and it read, “‘I’m going out on a mission. I won’t be able to talk with you for a while. But, I love you more than anything in this world.’”

    Jessica, who attended the presentation with her three children, stepped to the podium to offer words of reflection. She said when her husband was killed two years ago, she tried desperately hard to make her house a home again, but it’s been a struggle.

    “I’m sure all of you can relate when I say that my husband’s void has disrupted that safe feeling that home provides,” she said. “A house is just a house. It is the people, the love within and the memories made, that make a house a home.”

    The final tribute was paid to Staff Sgt. Chay, a cryptologic linguist. Gass said he was 34 when he was killed following an improvised explosive device detonating near his Humvee in the Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan on Oct. 28, 2006.

    Gass continued reading about Chay and shared the words spoken about him by his wife, Cathy, who covered her eyes with her hand as her son looked on and Jennifer Allgaier consoled her. “‘He was just a wonderful father and husband to me. ‘He loved me a great deal, and I loved him. He was my best friend and I just have good memories of how we grew up together.’”

    After the presentation to the Chay Family, Jennifer Allgaier spoke to the audience and expressed her thoughts and gratitude to the foundation and to those who continue to serve in the military and as first responders. She also addressed the Gold Star wives.

    “It really struck me what Nancy had to say about a sisterhood,” Jennifer said. “I do not know how I would still be here if it were not for these other ladies. We tried a lot of things to get through the pain. [ … ] In the end, what it came down to was knowing that someone cares, knowing that your loved one is not going to be forgotten and doing something for someone else. Those are the things that have gotten us through the pain.”

    Charlotte Watson, program manager for Fort Bragg’s Survivor Outreach Services, a program that advocates for Families of fallen service members, said she was elated to be at the event.

    “I have a personal connection with each of these Family members,” Watson said. “Knowing that there are organizations out there that still think about our Families is what they need. It’s an honor to be here to see them receive a mortgage-free home because financial struggles are always going to be something our Families face.”



    Date Taken: 05.28.2021
    Date Posted: 05.28.2021 15:06
    Story ID: 397732
    Location: FORT BRAGG, NC, US 

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