Fallen soldier's mother finds healing in the stars

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SALEM, Utah County — Kim Olsen says she'll never forget the moment she found out her son, 21-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Nigel Olsen had been killed.

"It's probably the toughest day I've had in my life, is to have to hear that my son died 7,000 miles away," Olsen said. "As his mother, I was supposed to protect him; and I just felt like I didn't."

Nigel was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2010. 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.

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 a website 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."

Each family that requests a gold star for their fallen hero gets one of them free; Utah families get two stars free. Proceeds from any additional stars go to a scholarship fund at Mountain View High School, which was Nigel's alma mater.

In just three months, Olsen has sent out 800 Gold 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.


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Jed Boal


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