April is recognized as the month of the military child. It is dedicated to acknowledging and honoring the sacrifices that military children make. Lauren Fagan, caregiver and military spouse to a retired MARSOC Marine, tells the story of Ashley Kundrat, Gold Star Wife, to share the sacrifices that she and her children have made.
On July 10, 2017 William “Billy” Kundrat was killed along with 15 Marines and one Navy Corpsman in Mississippi in a training exercise. He left behind an amazing wife, my friend Ashley and two children Ethan, 13 and Aleah, who was 8 at the time of the accident.
This particular picture is of Ethan, presenting a flag with a single tear drop on his cheek. This is a picture that stands out to me.
When I asked Ashley about this, I had only known the story behind the photo based on the caption that she had posted along with it. I had not heard the story in detail.
Here is what Ashley shared with me, “We found out about the accident on the morning of the July 11th, they initially told us the guys were missing, but we all knew what that meant.
We were sitting on the couch and we were supposed to have Vacation Bible School that night, as we did the night before the night of the accident.
My mom told my dad that she was calling our pastor and right then, without hesitation, Ethan said, “Tell him that I want to present the flag tonight to honor Dad! He would want me to and I want to make him proud!”
We had already been a crying mess. For him to say that was just surreal, everything in that moment was like an out of body experience. That one tear on Ethan’s cheek was the only one in the church. He held it together until we made it to the car.”
Ashley went on to tell me that they try their best every day and they talk about Billy like he hasn’t left them, but instead, they talk about him like he is on deployment or off training. This family and these children, along with many other Gold Star families, radiate strength and resilience. They persevere because like Ashley has said, there is no other option.
I had the opportunity to Facetime with the Kundrat family and they shared some of their favorite memories of their dad.
“I miss watching tv with him. Our favorite show was Good Luck Charlie. What I miss the most about Daddy is his loud and strong voice. My daddy died for this country and that makes me very proud.” – Aleah
Ashley shared, “Aleah was her Daddy’s princess, the twinkle in his eye.”
“I really liked camping and cooking with daddy. He was a great cook. His favorite was steak, but he liked to try new recipes too. I miss everything about daddy, just hanging out with him, just being with him. The coolest thing about my dad’s job was repelling from helicopters and shooting.” – Ethan
Ashley’s parents have been a huge support for them and have been able to stay with her and her family since the accident in July. Ashley said that she isn’t sure how they would do it without their help. They are, as she puts it, “angels on earth.”
Seeing how resilient these children are through such a devastating loss is humbling, to say the least. Watching them carry on their father’s legacy in their daily actions has been a blessing to many, including myself.
Death has been a bond builder in our military community; through loss, we have built mountains of relationships. Women that I have never had the pleasure of meeting have become close friends that I admire more than anyone.
These women have made sure that their children are aware of the sacrifice that was made, some of them never even meeting their father, others in the prime of their teen years, needing them more than ever.
I would like to say a very special thank you to the Kundrat family for sharing their story. Your story and your family is an inspiration and I am blessed to know you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren Fagan is a member of our Hope For The Warriors Caregiver Services, the wife and caregiver of a USMC veteran, and mother of three beautiful children. Due to the couples love for fellow military families and veterans, as well as their shared passion of farming they founded Operation Barnabas Inc. at Fagan Family Farm in Keystone Heights, Florida.
If you or someone you know are a Gold Star Family Member or could benefit from our services, please apply or have them apply today. We would be honored to assist you and your family!