Group honors soldier killed in Afghanistan

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Jean Amos, in wheelchair, crosses Carson Street with a group honoring American service members on the anniversary of the death of Gardnerville native Chief Warrant Officer Joshua Rodgers. Amos, a resident of Carson City for 28 years, had a husband, grandfather, and son serve in the military.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Jean Amos, in wheelchair, crosses Carson Street with a group honoring American service members on the anniversary of the death of Gardnerville native Chief Warrant Officer Joshua Rodgers. Amos, a resident of Carson City for 28 years, had a husband, grandfather, and son serve in the military.

One-hundred and sixty-five strangers and friends spanned three Carson City blocks on Friday afternoon dressed in red shirts and carrying American flags.

They shared a sole purpose, to honor American service members on an occasion that was solemn, the anniversary of the death of a Gardnerville native Chief Warrant Officer Joshua Rodgers.

"You don't ever want to be a gold star mom," said Amy Jackson, a member of the Gardnerville Chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America. To become a blue star mother, one needs to have a child serving in the Armed Forces. Jackson has a son, Nick Frankwich, in the military.

When your star is changed from blue to gold, your child has died in service to his country.

Joshua Rodgers' mother is a gold star mother. Debbie Walker and her husband Ben of Indian Hills were in North Carolina with Joshua's widow and three daughters. It was at the home Joshua and his wife bought near Fort Bragg five months before he was killed, that they recognized the anniversary of the day her son's helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

Carson City didn't forget either. Joshua's uncle and aunt, Mike and Susan McElfish, remember him every Friday as they walk a two-mile route that winds from the Burger King on the west side of Carson Street, crosses at Highway 50 East and runs back to the Carl's Jr. parking lot on the east side of the street.

Usually about 15 people take the journey with them. Mike McElfish was surprised Friday by the turnout after the family extended an invitation to the community to join them on this anniversary walk.

"I can't describe it; to see all these people come out to help support not only those who are serving, but Joshua too," he said standing amid a sea of red, white and blue.

Girl Scout Troops 553 and 168 were there in force. More than 15 members and scout parents who sent cookies to soldiers serving in Iraq took part.

"We're here to support our troops and to help remember the young man who lost his life," said Jerry Mott, Troop 553 leader.

The Scottish American Military Society of Reno played the bagpipes. The Virginia City family of Staff Sgt. Brian Bolander, killed April 29 by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, took part in the walk too.

As did Denise Carter whose husband Chris Carter is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq. She sees him for 28 days every six months.

Suzzie Mein of Reno was there on behalf of her daughter, Capt. Jacquelynn Ghazal, 25, a Westpoint graduate currently serving in Fort Campbell, Ky. Jacquelynn's service qualifies her mother to be a member of the Blue Star Mothers too.

Blue Star Mother Paula Fleming of Sparks joined in as well. Her son Sgt. Josh Tash, 29, a Reno native serving in Fort Drum, N.Y.

Those who walked were too many to name. As were the dozens more who didn't know they were part of a parade, but who became an extension when they honked their horns at the passing caravan or hollered support from the steps of the Children's Museum.

"As far as I'm concerned, they can come with us every Friday, including July 4th," McElfish said.

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.

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