Leslie Mayne Shares Her Son's Story
“What gives you joy?”
I was taken aback by that question that Leslie asked me when we sat down. No one really asked me that before, let alone someone that I just met. I was struck by how present she was with me and how sincerely she wanted to get to know me. That’s the kind of person Leslie is--a kind and compassionate soul with a servant’s heart.
I flew across the country from Atlanta to Seattle to meet her, and I was a little nervous. I’ve been working in the veteran space for several years and am embarrassed to admit I didn’t know what a White Star mother is. I personally know many Gold Star families, those that have lost a loved one in combat, but I had never heard of a White Star Family.
A White Star family is someone who loses a loved one who served in the military to suicide. Losing a family member to combat or suicide are both are incredibly tragic, but it’s an important distinction. Our country has lost more former service members to suicide than we have in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and in nearly all cases it was preventable.
It certainly was in Leslie’s case. A simple phone call from the VA to her to let her know they were releasing her son to self-medicate might have changed everything, but we’ll never know. Her son Kyle was a double volunteer. Once for the Army National Guard after 9/11, and once again to Active Duty so that he could deploy. Leslie’s joy was him. Watching him from a boy to a man, a football player into a Soldier, and cooking her world-famous enchiladas for him.
It struck me why she asked me what gave me joy on the flight home. She asked because hers was taken from her so suddenly and it took her a long time to be able to answer that question again herself. Part of her joy now is ensuring every service member finds purpose and joy when they return home.
Leslie took her unimaginable tragedy and turned it into inspiration founding the Permission To Start Dreaming (PTSD) Foundation. Her son Kyle suffered from nightmares from PTSD, and she always wanted him to be able to dream in peace and of the future. The Foundation hosts events and programs that support Post Traumatic Growth. The idea that we can become stronger after suffering trauma when we process it correctly.
Leslie herself is a shining example of Post traumatic growth. It must be our mission to ensure her, and no other mother’s joy is taken away again.