Military widow turns tragedy into triumph, helps other military families

Letendre started The Golden Star USA Foundation

INDIANAPOLIS - One local woman has turned her personal tragedy into triumph with unbelievable inner strength and spirit.

Autumn Letendre owns a store called Abby Adams. Abby Adams is not an ordinary store and Letendre is not an ordinary entrepreneur.

Letendre is a military widow with a cause.

"So everything in this store, a portion of it goes to The Golden Star USA Foundation, and every purchase in here will help a military family in some way," Letendre said.

Letendre started the nonprofit The Golden Star USA Foundation. The foundation focuses on providing scholarships for military children, but the organization also extends to provide help to military troops and their families.

She founded the organization shortly after her husband, Brian, was killed in 2006 while he was serving his second tour in Iraq.

The Marine left Letendre a single mom to a then 3-year-old boy and with a big decision to make – how to go on.

"It's difficult to get out of bed, but you have a choice to get up or stay down," she said.

She decided that tragic night to help all the other military wives and families facing a similar future.

"I felt it was my duty to tell them to be strong and to not fear the worst for their spouse, so when their spouse was going out again, they would be confident and give them pride and courage they needed," Letendre said.

Letendre said the families she helps are the ones that help her get over her own grief.

But through her work with the foundation, speaking to families all over the country and with her boutique, her peers say otherwise.

"Because she serves and she's one that should be being served. Being a widow and single mother to one of our nation's heroes," co-worker Karen Farrell said.

"Autumn does so much. She's a sounding board, she's there for anybody who needs her, not only here in Indiana, but across the nation," David Davis, chairman of Fallen Hoosier Heroes Memorial, said.

Letendre credits her husband with what she has been able to give to others through her hard work.

"It is just an honor to know that, you know, my husband gave so much so that I can be here and give to others. He taught me not only to raise my flag every day and to teach others to do that, but also to make sure that I am taking care of people beyond myself."

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