Gold Star Family remembers T.J. Conrad, shares Memorial Day message

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 9:07 PM EDT
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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Memorial Day offers an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice and service so many men and women offered our country.

However, for the family members left behind, those memories are important to share far beyond the annual holiday.

“Today is 4,108,” Tim Conrad said as he sat in the living room of his Bent Mountain home. “I don’t know why I do it. I write it in my planner. I’ve got all the planners since the day it happened.”

Tim Conrad lost his son T.J. more than a decade ago, and ever since Feb. 23, 2012, he has been counting the days.

“I can’t go to Afghanistan and have revenge on the guy that did this,” Tim Conrad said. “Really, all you can do is hold the pieces together in your, your crew.”

That crew includes T.J.’s siblings, his wife Holly and his son Bentley. Bentley was just an infant when his father was killed during his deployment in the Nangarhar province.

Together the Conrads have earned an honor no one wants, becoming a Gold Star Family.

“I’ll be truthful, until I lost T.J., I heard of a Gold Star I knew sort of what it was. I just never, I didn’t appreciate the true meaning of it,” Tim Conrad said.

The pain does not go away. Tim visits his son’s grave weekly, bringing tools to keep the space tidy. But T.J.’s legacy is remembered beyond these memorials. It’s living on through his son Bentley.

“He is just like, he is so much like his dad,” Holly Conrad said over a video call. “And that makes me really happy. Because you know, that’s all I have left is Bentley.”

Holly Conrad said Bentley helped her survive the grief after T.J. was killed, reminding her of her husband’s humor and love. And she wants people to know T.J.’s story goes beyond his service.

“His story is not just about him being the hero in the military. You know, he was our hero in everyday life, too. You know, he was a great father, a great husband and great son and a great friend and brother,” Holly Conrad said. “He was just great to everybody.”

So on this Memorial Day, think of the sacrifice but also remember the stories that extend beyond the military accomplishments.

“When you lose someone there’s no winners,” Tim Conrad said. “Nobody wins. But on Monday, just take two minutes and really think about it. That’s all.”