Mother establishes Latino support group in memory of son killed in Iraq

Mother establishes Latino support group in memory of son killed in Iraq

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VICTOR, N.Y. — Miriam Velez takes it one day at a time after losing her only child, Marine Cpl. Reynold Armand, who died in Iraq in 2007 at the age of 21. There are days she gets depressed, and there are days when she is happy, but the pain of losing her son will have an everlasting impact on her life.

On Memorial Day, a time to reflect, remember, and honor our fallen soldiers, Velez wore a special shirt dedicated to her son. After graduating from East Ridge High School, Reynold joined the Marines in 2004. Velez says he was proud to serve his country.

When she got the news her son was killed, it was difficult to cope.

“Losing it for me was like I couldn’t sleep for three days — I didn’t eat — my mind was just on him,” Velez said. “That’s the most I’ve cried in a long time. I felt like all my tears had dried up from crying so much.”

Losing her son, her only child, was the worst day of her life. Memories of his funeral still weigh heavy on her heart. What puts a smile on her face is remembering the last moments with him during his visit home and her last words to him before heading back to Iraq.

“I remember telling him don’t worry time flies so fast – by the time you know it you’ll be home for good. Then he turned around and went on the plane,” Velez said.

Now she visits him at the cemetery and has planted a garden in her yard in his honor.

“I have a soldier in my garden at home – so I make sure every year I put my flag up, buy all the little decorations for Memorial Day… and the same thing with the cemetery,” Velez said.

What gives Velez comfort is the last Mother’s Day gift from her son, a stuffed animal that says “I love you, Mom.”

“After that, he got deployed, and that was the end of my gifts. You can say, so I keep it, I cherish it,” Velez said.

Velez also established Monroe County’s first Latino support group. It provides resources to Latino and minority veterans, active military, and family members who have lost a loved one like her.

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