Mourning dad shows love to troops, families

Gary Strader strives to honor troops

Gary Strader is on a mission; he's working every day to show his appreciation for men and women in uniform and their families -- and he's fulfilling his duty.

"That's what we are here to accomplish, …to help them understand, let them know without a shadow of a doubt that we love them and we support them and we want the best for them," Strader told RTV6's Ericka Flye.

In 2004, Strader's 23-year-old son, Morgan, was shot and killed in a firefight with insurgents during his second tour of duty in Iraq.

"He had been ready to get out of the Marines," Strader said. "But he heard that his unit was returning, so he said, 'I gotta go back with them.' (Morgan) gave his life for his country and his comrades, and we're very proud of him for that."

Strader said that he has vowed to show other troops they are appreciated, because it's what Morgan would have wanted.

"One of the things he asked me every time he called me was, 'What do the people back there in Indiana think of what we're doing, Dad? What do they think of us?'"

So Strader joined a military support group and got to work. He sends out care packages filled with cards and comforts of home.

"We just did a packing of Girl Scout cookies, because everybody loves Girl Scout cookies," he said.

Strader also sends small decorated trees around the holidays. Throughout the year, he visits families all over central Indiana that are dealing with the loss of a soldier. He says it was that kind of personal attention after his son's death that helped his healing.

"I know they don't remember my name," he said, "but I promise you they do remember that somebody came up to them and somebody hugged them. Somebody said, 'We're with you. We're praying for you. We love you, and we appreciate your sacrifice.' I know that they remember those things."

He goes above and beyond to let the troops know they are not forgotten. At the Memorial Day ceremony at Crown Hill Cemetery, Strader passed out a special coin.

"I designed and had produced this prayer coin that I could carry in my pocket, so anytime I reached in my pocket I would feel that and I would remember, I need to pray for these guys, and I would pray for them," he said.

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