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Diane Rawl remembers son’s sacrifice ahead of Gold Star Mother’s Day

Published: Sep. 25, 2021 at 12:02 AM EDT
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SWANSEA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s a circle they are forced into by unimaginable grief.

This weekend, our nation will pause to honor Gold Star Mother’s Day on September 26th. It’s a day when we recognize mothers who have lost a son or daughter in service to the U.S. Armed Forces.

For Diane Rawl, it’s been nine years but it might as well have been yesterday.

“I was proud, oh I was so proud,” Rawl said of her son’s choice to serve.

When you walk into the Rawl family home in Swansea, you see Lieutenant Ryan Rawl’s service hanging on every corner. From his Citadel days to his time with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and his deployment with the South Carolina National Guard.

His sacrifice fills each inch of the hallway. But now, where the relics live there is a silence where Ryan’s footsteps should be.

1st Lt. Ryan Rawl was killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in 2012 alongside Sgt. John David Meador and Sgt. 1st class Matthew Bradford Thomas. The three soldiers were assigned to the 133rd Military police company.

“It was like I was in a dream,” Rawl said. “I mean, it’s like something you see on TV but it could not possibly be happening to my family because you’re fixing to tear my family apart.

In the years since her son’s death, the war in Afghanistan raged on. Then, this summer, a rapid drawdown brought images of chaos and confusion. Rawl is firm that she believes in the U.S. right to enter Afghanistan and work to plant seeds of hope.

But, seeing the images of service members in distress and the horrible conditions for people trying to leave has been difficult.

“As much as we have progressed with the grieving and all, in nine years, it all just flooded right back,” she said.

Rawl said what has kept the family afloat is knowing that Ryan believed deeply in the mission.

“Even if he knew exactly what the outcome was going to be, he would still go and do it again today. That’s how much he believed in what he was doing,” Rawl said.

But believing in the mission doesn’t bring her son back.

“Being a Gold Star Mom is the only organization I know of that you do not want to be a part of,” she said. “Groups make you stronger. We found in serving, serving others has made us stronger and helped us heal.”

Gold Star Mother’s Day is September 26th, 2021. Rawl said the best way to help honor service members and families of those who have lost their lives in the name of patriotism is to tell their stories out loud to ensure they, and their service, are never forgotten.

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