Novi, MI, US
U.S. Marine Corps
LCPL, 3521 Motor T, Second Maintenance Division.
7/20/2009, Jacksonville, USA
“I started screaming and falling on the floor saying, no, no, no, no! My husband had to pull the phone out of my hand,” Denise Akers said. Fresh tears filled Akers’ eyes as she sat down to talk about her only child, 23-year-old Lance Corporal Matthew Pritchett, who died July 20, 2009. The difference for this Gold Star mother is that Pritchett took his own life.
Akers describes her son as her pride and joy. As a single mother, she raised Pritchett alone until he was 10, then she met and later married the man Pritchett would call dad. Pritchett overcame many obstacles, one being a speech impediment and was passionate about working as a mechanic after graduating from high school. But, one day he came home from work with a different goal.
“He came home and decided, ‘mom, I’m going in the Marine Corps,’” Akers said. “I said no, go to the Navy. Please don’t go to the Marines. [He replied] ‘I have to go to the best of the best.’”
Akers said he passed basic training with flying colors and overcame yet another obstacle-his fear of heights.
“He had to repel this 60-foot wall and he didn’t want to go back to phase one,” Akers said. “He wanted to graduate on time and he did. He graduated on time.”
Soon after graduating basic training, Pritchett married his wife in a small ceremony then left to go to California for training for a month.
“We saw him on July 8th,” Akers said. “Matt got baptized on July 5th, 15 days to him taking his life.
“I have been shunned by a lot of people because my son took his life,” Akers said. “And, they were trying to say that I was not a Gold Star mom, but my son wore the same uniform. I got the same folded flag. I got the same star.”
Akers explained her angst when others come up to her and other Gold Star moms and ask how they can get a pin like theirs.
“And, we say no you don’t [want one],” she said. “This means that they are never coming home to you. Never.”
Akers said she wishes more people would understand what the Gold Star represents.
“The only ones who really recognize are Vietnam Veterans and WWII wives,” she said. “The younger generation should know more about it and read up on it.”