Mother of fallen Siouxland soldier arrives in Washington to march in Inaugural Parade
Arriving in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -
After traveling hundreds of miles, a van packed full of families of fallen service members arrived in Arlington Thursday afternoon.
“This journey is about honoring our sons for what they dedicated to our country to give us our freedom,” said Deborah Whitacker, from Illinois.
Whitacker says when she got the call from TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, that she was invited to march with the group in the Inaugural Parade, she knew she couldn’t go alone.
“It was exciting, but on the other note, it was hard because I’m not the only family that has lost a fallen soldier,” she said.
She got in touch with seven other families. They rented a van and hit the road.
“It’s a group that you don’t want to join, but it’s a wonderful experience because we all have pretty much the same stories,” said Ann Byers, an Iowa resident. Byers says her two sons were killed within nine days of each other.
Inside the van, adorned with flags and the names of the fallen, the families were brought together for a 15 hour journey. They say it’s a bond unlike any other.
“It’s just wanting America not to forget our loved ones,” Byers said.
The group of twelve plan to march Friday with TAPS in remembrance of the fallen.
“It’s an honor to be here, but, yet, it’s going to be a very emotional day,” said Beverly Kittoe, from Wisconsin.
“There’s a lot of things going on in the world that make you kind of leery about coming here and being involved but you can’t let that stop you. Our soldiers never let that stop them from going into dangerous situations,” said Kallie Good, an Iowa resident.
“No matter what you think about the Democrats or Republicans, I think it’s just awesome to be here, and it’s a really big honor,” said Keenan Gienau, who says his father died when he was just nine.
The group says it’s an honor and a bond that they won’t forget.
Included in the group is Lisa Naslund from Galva, Iowa. She launched Operation Engage America after the death of her soldier son Dillion to suicide in 2012.
Thursday night the group attended the Hero's Ball. Friday, they will attend the Inaugural Ball after the Inaugural Parade.