Gold Star Family remembers loved one killed in action

Gold Star Family
Sgt. Brooks' 4 children (Source: KAIT)
Sgt. Brooks' 4 children (Source: KAIT)
Sgt. Paul F. Brooks (Source: KAIT)
Sgt. Paul F. Brooks (Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
Nikki Winn & Barbar Brooks (Source: KAIT)
Nikki Winn & Barbar Brooks (Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - While many are winding down a 3-day weekend, work on Tuesday is not what is on the minds of some families in Region 8.

Seven years ago, just days before Memorial Day, a Region 8 family got a call they could hardly believe.

Barbara Brooks and Nikki Winn lost a son and brother that day.

"My brother, her son was killed in action," Winn said.

"That's a loss that's hard to recover from," Brooks said.

It was when they were saying their goodbyes to their fallen soldier they learned they were now a Gold Star Family.

A distinction they cherish but often gets confused with other military honors.

"You get a thumbs up, a yay, you must be so excited, or whatever," Winn said.

Those are common reactions Winn gets when people see the sign on the side of her car.

"But it's because they don't know Gold Star Families have lost someone in service," Winn said.

Staff Sergeant Paul Faris Brooks, 34, was killed by a suicide bomber May 21, 2009.

Sgt. Brooks was serving his second tour as an Army medic in Baghdad.

He was a husband and father of four.

"His wish was for daddy to come back so mommy wouldn't be sad," Brooks said about one of Sgt. Brooks' sons.

He was also a brother.

"My life is not back to normal and will never be back to normal," Winn said. "Now I can't turn my TV off. My mom and dad can't turn their TVs off and have their son back. I can't have my brother back."

One of the hardest things to get over for Brooks as a mother is not ever being able to see where her son died.

"I will always miss the fact that I can't go to the last place my son was," Brooks said. "I wasn't there to tell him bye."

He passed away just days before Memorial Day. A weekend the Brooks family had planned to enjoy.

"He was invincible," Brooks said. "That wasn't possible, but that was Thursday. I was looking forward to the weekend because it was Memorial Day weekend. I was going to get Monday off. We spent that Memorial Day waiting for my son to fly in from Dover."

Brooks said it's difficult for her when she hears people talk about Memorial Day weekend as just a day off from work.

Brooks said she often hears, "It's a holiday, have fun."

A thought forever changed for her family.

"Just stop a couple of seconds and think those families, those soldiers that without them, you may not be barbecuing," Brooks said.

This Memorial Day do not hesitate to ask a Gold Star Family about their soldier.

"Yes we want to talk about him," Brooks said. "We want him remembered."

Because for some, memories and sharing those memories are all they have left.

"Take what you have and don't lose sight of them because they are precious," Brooks said. "We learned that."

Winn and Brooks said there are 146 Gold Star Families in the state of Arkansas, a distinction families hold with tears along with pride.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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