Several days before Army Sgt. Amanda Pinson of Lemay deployed to Iraq, she visited with her cousin Jennifer Jerome.
They chatted about many things, but Jerome says one comment stands out in her mind from that conversation: “Amanda said, ‘If something were to happen, what if people forget me?’ ’’
Jerome assured Pinson that nothing would happen, but she also made a promise.
“I told her, ‘I will never let anyone forget you.' ’’
Pinson, 21, a signals intelligence analyst, was killed in Tikrit, Iraq, on March 16, 2006. She was the first female soldier from Missouri to be killed in action in Iraq.
Jerome has made it her mission to make sure that her cousin is never forgotten.
Together with volunteers and other Gold Star families, Pinson's family is working to create a monument to honor all of Missouri’s servicemen and servicewomen who were killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Desert Storm. Jerome manages social media and the website for the group, which has formed a nonprofit called the Missouri Military Memorial Foundation. It is headed by Chris Andrews, Pinson’s mother.
For four years, the foundation has been holding trivia nights, golf tournaments and 5K runs to raise close to $1 million to build a memorial wall at Jefferson Barracks Park in St. Louis County. This summer, they will take the first step: erecting a park pavilion that will eventually connect to the monument with a pathway of memorial pavers.
“It usually takes decades, if not generations, to have a memorial designed and erected to honor those fallen. And, usually, the families never get to see them,’’ Jerome said.
Jerome says that is important for Americans to remember the sacrifice made by so many military families. The memorial will include the names and pictures of more than 150 casualties from Missouri.
“These are real people who had no problem signing their name on the dotted line to go do what they needed to do or were told to do -- and they were willing to do it for people they didn’t even know,” Jerome said.
Many volunteers have pitched in to help with the foundation’s fundraisers. Some were Pinson’s old high school friends and former military colleagues. That has been the positive that Jerome has taken from the experience – and it is something she sees almost daily on the Facebook page she created in Pinson’s honor.
“As hard as it is to lose someone during a time of war – and it is devastating; it changes your life forever. But there still has to be some good,’’ Jerome said. “And I can’t count a day where I don’t see somebody posting something about supporting our troops who are still serving. Or, our veterans who have served.’’
Jerome said that working on the memorial has been healing.
“I feel like I’m keeping my word but most importantly, I'm keeping her memory alive,’’ she said.
Here is a previous story, from the St. Louis Beacon: