In memory of his heroic son, a mourning father has dedicated himself to spreading love, gratitude and prayer among America's troops, RTV6 reports.
In 2004, Sgt. Morgan Strader from Brownsburg, Ind., was killed in the line of duty while he was serving in Iraq. The young Marine had exposed himself to heavy fire to throw a grenade at the enemy, giving his life to save the other members of his company.
Morgan was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Commendation Medal in recognition of his valor.
“To me, it’s a tremendous honor to be given to him,” his father, Gary Strader, told the Hendricks County Flyer after receiving his son's medal in 2009. “As a father, you always wonder what your kids have done and whether it merited recognition. When they come through with that, I guess at first you get blown away by it. To think that he was capable in service of that manner, it’s just an honor to think that he lived that kind of life.”
After his son's death, Strader became involved in his church's military support group. He was seeking solace, but also an avenue through which he could show his appreciation for the country's servicemen and women.
"One of the things [Morgan] asked me every time he called me was, 'What do the people back there in Indiana think of what we're doing, Dad? What do they think of us?'," Strader told RTV6.
He was determined to show the troops that someone cared.
So with the help of members from the Connection Pointe Christian Church military support group, Strader got to work spreading as much happiness as he could.
“We try to supply snacks and food-type items at different points during the year —- a Superbowl snack package, Girl Scout cookie package, treats for troops in the fall and a Christmas package,” Strader told the Hendricks County Flyer in 2007. “We also try to support them by sending cards and letters during the year to let them know we’re thinking about them and caring for them.”
Strader sends decorated trees to soldiers' families around the holidays and offers personal support to family members of deceased soldiers. He also offers the gift of prayer.
"I designed and had produced this prayer coin that I could carry in my pocket, so anytime I reached in my pocket I would feel that and I would remember, I need to pray for these guys, and I would pray for them," he said.
Strader said this connection with the troops and their families has helped him heal.
"I know they don't remember my name," he said."but I promise you they do remember that somebody came up to them and somebody hugged them. Somebody said, 'We're with you. We're praying for you. We love you, and we appreciate your sacrifice.' I know that they remember those things."
In recognition of Strader's heartfelt dedication and his contribution to his community, RTV6 News has just named him the recipient of the TV station's Jefferson Award.
This is not the first time that Strader has been appreciated for his good work.
In 2007, he received the Godby Grand Giver award.
“I nominated Gary because of his tireless work in our group,” Brenda Leive, head of the military support group, told the Hendricks County Flyer. “Gary has taken a horrible incident in his life and turned it around to being a blessing to literally millions of people around the world.”