“We were both stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina when we met ,” says Leesa Philippon, gesturing towards her husband, Ray.
“He came to us and said he wanted to become a marine,” remembers Leesa.
In 2005, Leesa bid her son farewell as he left to take part in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“They made the call for for them to all board the bus,” she recalls with emotion. “I watched as he went single file onto the bus and took off.”
Only three months later, the Philippons got word that Larrt was headed to a dangerous, unstable area.
“It was actually the second day of Operation Matador to root out insurgents in the cities along the Syrian border,” says Ray.
“He appointed himself point man and he was met with direct machine gun fire from Iraqi insurgents,” says Leesa.
They learned that their son died on their wedding anniversary which was also Mother’s Day. Larry was just 22 years old.
“We felt we could either just shut-down or speak-up,” says Leesa. Ray adds: “As much as we can get the word out to help our veterans, that’s what we want to do.”
These Gold Star parents speak-out to improve services and programs for veterans and their families. It’s a way to honor their son and continue his mission.
Leesa says tearfully: “I always think of Larry looking down and I want him to be proud.”