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April 25, 2011

13

Interview with Gold Star Mother Florence McSween

by K. Tsetsi

–by Kristen Tsetsi

As a little boy, Adam McSween was meticulous about his appearance.

“His hair had to be just right, and his clothes always had to be pressed just before he put them on, even if they had been pressed and hung in his closet,” says his mother, Florence McSween. “He always cared about how he looked.”

As a teenager, his mother says, Adam was a leader in his group of friends. He also loved church and volunteered to help the Youth Minister after school, on holidays, and during the summer.

"Adam getting Petty Officer 1st Class rank." - Florence McSween

“He went to college to become a Youth Minster when he got out of the Navy,” she says.

Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal 1st Class (Diver) Adam McSween was 26 years old when he was killed by an IED in Iraq on April 6, 2007, leaving behind a wife and two daughters, ages 5 and 2 at the time.

Adam, the youngest of Florence’s four children, was in a caravan of five Humvees stopped near Kirkuk when an IED in the distance shot straight up into the air, his mother says. When it came down, it “took out” Adam’s Humvee, killing Adam and two other EOD Techs.

“Even though you know it could happen, you are never prepared to hear your child has been killed,” Florence says.

Florence is a member of the private Facebook group The Gold Star Parents Brigade, created by Gold Star Mother Becky Johnson. She calls it a “safe place” for parents who have lost children to war to talk about how they’re feeling any time of day or night.

“We don’t have to worry about what we say, because it will not be shared with others who would not understand,” Florence says.

LIFT: Parents around the world suffer the unimaginable loss of a child for any number of reasons. How does a Gold Star mother’s loss differ? Why is it important to you that people know the stories of Gold Star mothers?

FLORENCE: When a mother loses a child to war, it is a loss to a country. When your child signs his or her life over to guard and protect their country, they are saying to their country that they are willing to lay down their life to keep others free and safe.

My son loved God, family, and country in that order, and it is important to me that everyone know that. I feel it is important for all to know what a Blue Star family is, as well as what a Gold Star family is. If people knew first about the Blue Star and how it becomes Gold, I think they could understand better what it means to a Gold Star Mother to make sure her child is never forgotten.

I never wanted this Gold Star. However, I wear it with pride to honor my son and the life he gave so freely for his country. And now it is up to me to carry on where he left off. The way for me to do this is to support our military in whatever way I can. I volunteer for the USO, Operation Homefront, the Remember the Brave Foundation, Georgia’s Fallen Heroes, the Purple Heart Foundation, the Wounded Warriors, and the EOD Wounded Warriors.

I pack and send care packages, and I sew pillowcases to send to our deployed troops to give them a little piece of home and let them know they are thought of and prayed for every day.

I volunteer for the Missing in America Project to give full military services to those veterans who have died without families to show them the respect they deserve, and I am always available to listen when other Gold Star families are in need of an understanding ear and heart. I try to be available to reach out and help in any way I am able, any time day or night.

LIFT: What was your reaction – your immediate feeling, before you even had time to think – when your son told you he wanted to join the military?

FLORENCE: I knew from the time he was a little boy he wanted to be in the military; however, when he was ready to join the Navy, he was still in college, so I asked him to finish college before joining.

He didn’t want to wait, so we came to an agreement that he would get his Associate degree before joining.

He always did very well in school and always had a lot of friends. Adam and I always had special times together, especially when he would come home on school breaks. We live about two hours from the airport he would fly into, and it was near the beach, so we would spend three days at the beach before coming home, and then when he got home he spent most of his time with his friends. He always had a great relationship with his siblings, also. Adam was the kind of person loved by all. He was very close to everyone in our family, he was a wonderful son, a loving caring brother, husband and father, and we all love him dearly.

He was a wonderful dad. He loved his little girls very much, and when he was home he would spend every free moment with them doing what they liked.

LIFT: How much communication did you have with him while he was deployed, and how did he sound? What were his emails or phone calls like?

FLORENCE: What communication I had with my son was always positive. He loved his job, and when he went on his first deployment, he told his commander that he would go back again – and he did. He was on his second deployment when he was killed.

He was always in the top of his group. He love talking about what he was learning, but he also love talking about his family and wanted to know how everyone was doing. He missed everyone greatly.

LIFT: You said earlier that you appreciate being a member of the Facebook group for Gold Star parent because you’re surrounded by others who understand your experience. What, if anything, do you most wish people knew or understood about military families, in general?

FLORENCE: It is not an easy life, and military families have to give up a lot to be where they need to be at any given time in their lives. They do not get paid their value. And most of all, they need everyone’s support, such as being told thank you for the job they do, for their willingness to leave their families for long periods of time to protect others at home in this country.

Also, to understand you can support our military families and not be for the war. People don’t understand the military and the war(s) are two different things. Or I should say, the military is a group of people and war is a conflict governed by leaders.

Being part of a military family means being a part of a much larger family. Being closer to those in your same branch of service. We were very much a military family when my children were born. Their father works for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, so my children grew up around the military all of their lives. My three oldest children were born overseas.

I think, also, as a military family you have a deeper sense of what it means to be an American and better understand the cost of freedom.

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13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Apr 25 2011

    Thank you for your families sacrifice.

    Reply
  2. Lucy Christiano (Cee)
    Apr 25 2011

    Florence, what a beautiful tribute to your son. As a Blue Star Mother I Honor our Gold Star Families and share your pain. The dignified way you speak of his Sacrifice left me in tears. Our country needs to know how our children are standing up for this country and our values.
    God Bless You All.

    Reply
  3. Dianne Bullock
    Apr 25 2011

    Florence, what a great interview!! I am so proud of you (and of Adam and his sacrifice). I’m so sorry you had to lose him. He was such a terrific son/man. You do him great honor. Love ya,
    Dianne

    Reply
  4. Becky Johnson
    Apr 25 2011

    Florence – You are such a wonderful lady! You raised a hero – and you honor him so completely! It is with such with great pride that I call you my friend! You truly are a valued member of Gold Star Parents Brigade! ~<3~

    Reply
  5. Apr 25 2011

    As a Gold Star Mother also–thank you Adam–I was also married to a career military man–he died when our sons were 5 and 2 so I understand what Erin is going through also–my son died 11-15-2003 Mosul, Iraq and Florence is right if you haven’t walked our journey you cannot understand–it isn’t that people don’t want to understand, they just can’t. My strength to help others in my situation comes from the strength that I receive from my Lord and Savior, without Him I would be lost. Florence thank you for representing us so positively, I know Adam is proud of you!!

    Reply
  6. Liz
    Apr 25 2011

    God Bless you and your family.
    Growing up as a navy brat, gave our family the strength to grow stronger across the miles. It also, has taught me that I was the lucky brat, because my dad came home from each of his tours. Now that I am older and have grown in wisdom, I understand what our Blue Star and Gold Star families sacrifice and what a strong woman my mother was. “Precious time”
    Thank you!

    Reply
  7. Apr 25 2011

    Florence, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us in the Hunter family–I will pass it along to them–especially Blake. We were privileged to know Florence and her family from about the time Adam was 12 through the high school years–Adam was one of our youngest son, Blake’s very best friends.Everything Florence has said about Adam was certainly true.. During his college years–we saw him only a couple of times during these years– only a We heard he was getting married, We knew he had to have chosen a very special young woman– and he did. I also know what a wonderful father he must have been to his little girls. When we heard he had joinned the Navy, we had no idea of the area of trainning he had chosen nor how very dangerous that training could be. However, we were not surprised–for a young man who put God first in his life, his family second and friends and comrads third…he wanted to protect those “bands of brothers” that he served with. I had never been to a military memorial service before Adam’s–and unless you have experienced one you cannot know the dignity, respect and love shown at one of these–some of his top commanders and several of his fellow Navy comrads were present –one of his top commanders spoke in great detail about the soldier Adam had been and in great detail of the event when he sacrificed his life for his country…for you…and for me and those to come after us! One of the most humbling and very proud experiences for many was as we walked along the sidewalk to the church entrance–it was lined with veterans of past wars, but most of them from the Vietnam war –they stood at attention on that hot day with an American flag beside them from the beginning of the service until every person had filed out of the church at the end…I mouthed the words “thank you” to them–the very least I could do. Our family is dedicated to remembering all veterans and especially, our friend, Petty Officer 1st Class Adam McSween–no, our freedom is not free!

    Reply
  8. tom wood
    Apr 25 2011

    what an honor to meet this exqusite lady…

    Reply
  9. Susan Schaeffer
    Apr 26 2011

    Petty Officer 1st Class Adam McSween — Thank you for being the very best of us. May we all live worthy of your great, great sacrifice.

    Florence — We Will Never Forget.

    Regards,

    Susan Schaeffer
    President
    Blue Star Mothers of America, Washington Chapter #1

    Reply
  10. Lisa Bixler
    Jul 31 2011

    Dearest Florence,
    You have done your son and his family a great honor.
    He would be so proud.
    God bless you,
    Lisa Bixler
    Proud Gold Star Mother of
    PFC Evan Abraham Bixler
    KIA 24Dec06 Hit, Iraq

    Reply
  11. Anonymous
    Aug 1 2011

    My Dear Florence,
    You are an inspiration to us all. I know that your son is grinning ear to ear along with all his brothers. Job well done, Mom.
    Blessings to you from,
    Forever Proud Mom of:
    SSg. Warren Scott Hansen
    KIA 15-11-2003
    Mosul, Iraq

    Reply
  12. Mar 1 2012

    liked

    Reply
  13. Mar 1 2012

    all gave some some gave all and some still give today

    Reply

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