CENTER, TX (KTRE) – Prayers are going out Memorial Day for those we lost to war and the ones still serving. At the First United Methodist Church in Center, the death of a soldier they did not even know served as a call to duty to help hundreds of military families.
"I remember praying that they would just say he was hurt or maybe they had the wrong house," said Donnice Roberts, a soldier's widow. "It just didn't happen that way."
"Husband, daddy, soldier. I think that sums it up," said Roberts reflecting at her husband's final resting place in Shelbyville.
Roberts said it was everything her husband, Kevin Casey Roberts, aspired to be. He was killed May 7, 2009 during combat in Afghanistan. It was his third tour serving the country he loved.
"He was doing what he loved to do," she said.
She said the grief comes in doses.
"Grief for me is an everyday process. For the rest of my life I think I'll be grieving."
Steve Thomas experienced a different kind of grief for the soldier he never knew. He found inspiration in Roberts' life.
"I was so moved, you know, I could hear the gravel crunching under the tires of the hearse as it slowly went by in front of me and I could see the flag draped coffin and I thought I want to do something," said Thomas.
Thomas began handcrafting what he calls prayer crosses. In the past year and a half 503 soldiers scattered across the world have received one. He said it gives them hope during times they may feel hopeless.
"It might be bitter cold. It might be very lonely out there on that base on a hilltop somewhere, but this cross, they have to understand, it's coming from the people of this church in East Texas that have put their love into it," he said.
For widows like Donnice, it's a piece of comfort.
"When you hold it, you just feel like you're so much stronger than you are," she said. "It's almost like a calming."
Knowing that her husband's life inspires hundreds of military families makes her days a little easier.
"It seems like I'm more proud of him everyday that goes by," she said. "It's amazing. It seems like he still amazes me even though he's been gone now."
If you're interested in donating to the Prayer Cross Ministry or if you want to request a prayer cross, contact Thomas at 936-591-0564. You can also reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
Donations received are used to cover the cost of packaging and postage.