Dr. Nancy Glass, a professor of allied health science at Austin Community College, grew up in a Gold Star family – the family of a fallen service member. Glass never knew her brother’s father, who was killed during World War II. She does, however, remember being a young girl, looking in a trunk in her brother’s room and seeing all of his father’s belongings.
“I always felt so bad for my brother, because he couldn’t talk about his grief, what he was going through,” Glass says. “But his father was a hero. I wish I could’ve met him.”
Today Glass helps dozens of Gold Star families as well as veterans and active-duty service members through the nonprofit organization Operation Honor Our Heroes. She founded the group in 2007 to assist wounded veterans and honor the fallen.
Glass started the group after Master Sergeant Robert M. Horrigan was killed in Iraq on June 17, 2005. Glass worked with Horrigan’s mother at the time, and she spent the week following his death with his family, helping them in any way she could. She wanted to start Operation Honor Our Heroes after seeing how difficult it was for people to talk about Horrigan to his family.
“What people don’t understand is that these families want to talk about their loved ones,” Glass says. “I thought it was important to honor all fallen heroes from all states, even if most of the families don’t know about our efforts. Maybe one day they will.”
The group attends all the funerals and memorials of local servicemen and women and makes flags for their families. They also go to community events across Central Texas and team up with other organizations to spread the message of honoring the troops both locally and nationally.
The group’s signature tribute is a sea of flags that tell the personal stories of each service member killed in Iraq and Afghanistan – nearly 7,000 in all.
“We want everyone to know who these special people were, and to provide a little insight into the amazing lives they lived,” says Lauren McIntyre, an ACC student who helped Nancy start the organization. “Our goal is to give back in any way we can to the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The ACC community has been essential to the success of Operation Honor Our Heroes, Glass says. Warren Heatwole, a professor of building construction technology, supports the group and even brought some of his students to help set up thousands of flags in front of the Long Center for Memorial Day.
Even though McIntyre is busy with school and three part-time jobs, she does whatever she can for the group. She and her twin sister manage the database of the fallen and print cards for the flags. It’s tough to balance everything, McIntyre says, but it’s worth it.
“When you’re in school and you’re working, you have to make priorities. I make Operation Honor Our Heroes a priority because I want to do whatever I can to honor the memories of these soldiers,” McIntyre says. “I will make the time for this group, even if it means sacrificing sleep or free time.”
Glass agreed: “I know I’m in the right place, doing the right thing. What matters most to me is that we help the families in any way we can.”
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