As Memorial Day approaches, we celebrate more than just the beginning of summer. This holiday is a time to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and their families. Families of fallen service members are called “Gold Star Families.” To better understand the meaning of the holiday and how we can celebrate it with our families, we connected with Legacies Alive, a Veteran-founded organization that is dedicated to supporting and spreading awareness to Gold Star Families. They put us in touch with Gold Star Spouse Krista Simpson Anderson, who shared her story with us.
Krista shared her experience and what being a Gold Star Family means to her as well as how we can celebrate Memorial Day and support other families through times of grief. Krista is mom to two boys, Michael and Gabriel Simpson, spouse to Green Beret, MSG(R) Gus Anderson, and the Gold Star spouse of Green Beret, SSG Michael (Mike) Harrison Simpson. Mike served with 1st Special Forces Group and died of wounds on May 1, 2013, from an Improvised Explosive Device Attack in Eastern Afghanistan when their boys were only three and one years old.
We were grateful to hear Krista’s story and learn directly from her in our interview:
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your family?
I am an advocate for military families and work hard on enhancing services for future Gold Star families as a volunteer for multiple organizations as well as the U.S. Army and Department of Defense.
My husband Gus retired from the U.S. Army as a Green Beret in 2021 after 22 years of service. He continues to serve as a government employee working under the Department of Homeland Security.
Michael is 13 years old and is in the 7th grade. He loves to play basketball and baseball and his favorite subjects are math, science and religion.
Gabriel is 11 years old and is in the 5th grade. He loves to play basketball and football and his favorite subjects are reading and math.
We also have a service dog named Hope. She is a 2-year-old bernadoodle trained and gifted to us by Labs for Liberty. She is a true blessing to our family and serves us all so well.
What does being a Gold Star family mean to you?
It is a great gift to be able to say that our person (husband and father) sacrificed himself to preserve the freedoms we all hold dear. We continue to work through our grief, certainly, as we will always miss him and wish he had come home. Mike is a part of our nation’s history which in turn will always be bittersweet.
Are there any favorite memories or experiences you'd like to share about Michael?
Mike was such a fun, loving father. He would get down on the floor to the boys level to play. He loved to create new games and build Legos with them. He made them feel as though they were the most important people in the world and to him, they were.
Gus served with Mike and with that comes a beautiful connection that our boys will always have with him. It is such a gift to share my life with a man who vows to honor Mike in meaningful ways. The greatest gift he has given us…he allows us to love them both.
How have you navigated dealing with grief with your kids? Do you have anything you’d like to share with other parents who are also experiencing the loss of a loved one?
I was told two weeks after Mike died from another widow that we would “re-grieve with every developmental stage.” This has held true for the last 10 years for all of us. As life moves forward and our experiences continue, without him, different feelings develop. As the boys age, their brains process the loss differently. Being told this in the beginning allowed me to serve them the best way possible in each stage. This statement allowed us to understand we aren’t broken, it’s just part of the process.
What advice would you offer to friends of a Gold Star family for ways they can support? How did and how does your community continually support you?
Put the date of death, birth, or anniversary on your calendar and send a note to say “thinking about you simply.” It is ALWAYS comforting to know others are thinking about Mike and our family on these significant dates as we think about him every moment of every day.
Our community still shows up in very meaningful ways even 10 years later.
Are there any organizations or resources that have been particularly helpful to you and your family?
Legacies Alive is an organization that has been a part of our lives and a true family since we met the founders in 2014. They bring Gold Star families together for different events throughout the year to simply love and support them. We have made beautiful memories and connections with other families that have experienced similar loss.
When we are all together, it just feels like home. Their organization is a true gift. They empower us to “move forward” and understand we don’t “move on.” They continue to honor Mike while recognizing the blessing of Gus. Gus and I married in 2017, and I could not be more grateful for his presence in our lives. The boys say they have “a Daddy in Heaven and a Daddy on Earth.” Legacies Alive honors and supports our family as a whole. Gus, me, Michael, Gabriel, and Mike.
How are you celebrating Memorial Day this year? Any recommendations for families with young children?
Every year we celebrate. Celebrate the life we have been given. Celebrate the love we have experienced. Celebrate the men and women who have lived, loved, and gone before us in service to our great nation. We talk about Mike, share stories, laugh, cry, and show gratitude for it all. We acknowledge that our grief is a direct reflection of the great love that has been shown to us. We say their names, and we vow to LIVE the life they died to protect.
For those with young children, I recommend a herocards.us membership which will provide you with a packet of cards every month of the year. Each card has a picture and bio of a different service member who has died while in service to our nation. Consider talking about these men and women all year, not just Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is the time to throw a party, gather those you love, pause to reflect on our fallen, and live a life worth dying for.
Thank you, Krista, for taking the time to share your story. We’re grateful for your words and wisdom as we celebrate Gold Star Families this Memorial Day and beyond.