SALEM, Utah County — It was the toughest day of Kim Olsen’s life, the day she learned her 21-year-old son, Marine Lance Cpl. Nigel Olsen, was killed in Afghanistan.
“He died 7,000 miles away without me by his side for a final embrace, a final opportunity to whisper in his ear, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you,’” she said.
She was supposed to protect him at all cost, she said, but felt like she didn’t do that. Now her greatest fear is that people will forget the sacrifice he and countless other men and women have made for this country. So she has found a way to honor them with special gold stars.
At his mother's home in Salem, a Marine flag now waves in the wind, and there's a gold star in the window, honoring Nigel's memory. "He was a loyal friend, and his Marine buddies tell me he was a stellar Marine," Olsen said.
For her son, the Marines was his whole life, it was what he lived for. “He was focused, very focused on military history, on military combats, military strategy, from the time he was little,” she said.
Gold Star families are those who have lost a loved one in war. Olsen is a Gold Star Mother. The Gold Star tradition dates back to World War I. Families who lost a son in battle would hang a gold star in the window.
"We are all bonded together with our sons that we've never met," Olsen said, "but we are a family."
And Olsen wants to make sure all Gold Star families have this star to display at home, or on their car So in January, she set up the website www.goldstarstars.com and started taking orders. She knows her son would have liked that idea.
"It's a way of honoring him," Olsen said. "But, it's a way of honoring so many people."
Gold Star Stars provides personalized window star decals with the hero’s name, rank and killed in action date. If the hero was not killed in action, but died in service of their country, including from post-traumatic stress disorder/suicide, the star can have a date of birth and the date the person died on the star instead.
Each family that requests a gold star for their fallen hero gets one for free. Utah families get two stars for free. She said it is her gift to other Gold Star families.
“(I want) to let them know first that I remember their loss, I remember their son, I remember their daughter,” she said. “And it’s to help America remember."
Additional stars can be purchased for $8. All profits go to the scholarship fund created in Carlos Aragon and Nigel Olsen's name at Mountain View High School in Orem, where they attended school. Olsen graduated in 2007 and Aragon in 2008. They both enlisted in the USMC just after graduation and both were assigned to Charlie Company out of Camp Williams. They were deployed to Afghanistan together. Carlos died on March 1, 2010, and Nigel on March 4, 2010.
In just three months, Olsen has sent out 800 stars. For her, it's a way of keeping her son's memory alive.
"It's tough to see your baby and know that he's not going to come home," she said.