Father joins Reserve in honor of fallen son

May 29, 2010 6:51:34 PM PDT
As Americans remember fallen soldiers this Memorial Day, the father of a soldier killed in Iraq is paying tribute to his son.

The gold star father is continuing his son's mission.

"It just not the right order of things," Kevin Graves says. "You're not supposed to live past your children."

It is a reality Graves is still getting used to. His son, Specialist Joey Graves, died in Iraq four years ago. Things have not been the same since then.

"We enjoyed each other. We enjoyed the company of being together. We were pretty much inseparable," he says.

Now, Graves is honoring his fallen son in a very unique way, one that involves time, commitment and sacrifice. The 53-year-old father became 'Specialist Kevin Graves' in January when he joined the California Military reserve. There is no age requirement to join that group whose focus is to support the California National Guard.

As a military reservist, the elder Graves will not be deployed, but can be called on to help during a natural disaster. The reserve requires Graves to spend one weekend a month with his unit and away from his wife.

"That's what really his mission has become. His life has become about helping those who defend our country and if that's what he has to do, then so be it," says Kevin's wife Leianne.

It is a life the couple did not expect to lead. They hoped for grandchildren. They are adjusting the only way they know how.

"Kevin is a very special individual and he's taking something tragic and turning it into something extremely positive," says Kevin's friend Steve Dresser.

Making a difference is what so many soldiers died doing. As flags are placed on nearly 140,000 graves at Golden Gate National Cemetery, even the youngest people feel the weight of Memorial Day.

"You don't really think about people who you've lost until you end up at a place like this and you see how many gravestones, and it makes me feel very humble," says 19-year-old Lauren Sommers.

It is the same feeling Kevin describes as he prepares to walk in his son's shoes.


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