KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Gold Star families were honored by the Kansas City Royals on Memorial Day.
A group from the metro got the VIP treatment from the team. It was a special memory for those families, but the memories they cherish the most are of their son’s who couldn’t be there.
“‘We regret to inform you’ — that’s when my gold star journey began,” Gold Star mom Debbie Austin said. “Five months after graduation is when his career ended.”
It’s a painful memory for her. She lost her son Shane Robert Austin in a grenade attack only months before his 20th birthday.
“We don’t get over it. The pain does not go away. With that said, nor do I want the pain to go away. Once my heart quits hurting, he`s forgotten,” Austin said.
She holds so many memories of her son close to her heart.
“His smile and kind of his orneriness, sometimes that was too much for me to handle, but — his smile,” Austin said.
However, it was his outgoing personality that means the most to her.
“All Shane’s photos from boot camp, to Kuwait, to Germany, to Iraq. He was doing — he had the rock on. Let`s keep rocking,” Austin said.
So the gesture by the Kansas City Royals to honor Gold Star families meant a lot to her and Gold Star dad Andy Eckert. It was a salute they genuinely appreciated.
“Baseball’s always been important to us, and I always kind of think about him when I’m at a game,” Eckert said. “You don’t expect anybody to do anything for you. The military’s a family, and we look out for each other. So when an outside organization steps up and does stuff, it does humble me.”
His son, Andy Eckert, died when he was 24 and a father of two in an explosion in Iraq.
“He had an infectious laugh. It was hard to be down around him because he was never down,” Eckert said.
Serving in the armed forces gave him focus and purpose.
“When I saw him between the two deployments with his unit, he was a truly a leader and truly somebody to be proud of,” Eckert said.
Both parents miss their children incredibly but know they died doing what they love.
“He served because he wanted to serve. Nobody made him,” Eckert said.
“That’s Shane`s kind of way of saying, ‘You got this mom. You got this my family. Rock it,'” Austin said.