Feature Writer

On Feb. 6, 2005, former Paulding resident Jeanette (Wobler) Poston received the worst news any mother could ever hear. Her 24-year old son, Zachary Wobler, had been killed in action in Mosul, Iraq. But following that grief-stricken day came a new calling for Jeanette, who now is remarried and lives in Virginia. She is now president of the Virginia chapter of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

“My husband and I had been shopping,” Jeanette recalls of that fateful day. “When we came home, we noticed a military car with two men inside sitting in front of our house. We pulled into the driveway and the car pulled in behind us. My husband looked in the rear-view mirror and told me it had government license plates. My heart sunk. There was only one reason that car would have been at our house.”

Zach was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Ranger Recon Division. He was also a sniper. “His paratrooper unit was the first to go in and establish a new military base in Iraq,” Jeanette says. “From their planes they dropped everything from building materials, concrete, blacktop, equipment and supplies to personnel and food. Whatever it took to establish a new base, they were responsible for getting it in and getting the base built.”

One evening Zach and the others in his outfit were out on a mission when gunfire erupted in the streets of Mosul. “They were taking direct fire in an alley they’d ducked into,” Jeanette says Zach’s friends told her at his funeral. “Zach stood up and walked to the intersection of the alley and street to see if the danger had cleared. That’s when a bullet went through a gap in his bulletproof vest and damaged his internal organs. He lived long enough to get to the hospital but passed away there.”

Although Jeanette didn’t know it until his funeral, Zach had been having a recurring dream about getting killed at some kind of intersection. “A couple of his friends and some of the guys in his outfit told me he’d told them about his dream,” she says. “He’d had the same dream three or four times, about getting killed at a place where two streets or roads came together. He wasn’t sure if it was where two roads crossed or the intersection of a street and a railroad track. They thought it was ironic that he was shot at the intersection of the alley and the street.”

Zach’s widow, Corissa, was the first to be notified of his death by the Army chaplains. “Because he was married, it was their duty to notify his widow first,” Jeanette says. “They came to our house shortly after she’d been notified to let us know. The next few days are all a blur for me.” Zach now rests at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. Soon after his funeral, Jeanette was contacted by a woman dressed in white who was a representative of Gold Star Mothers.

The organization known as Gold Star Mothers was approved by President Woodrow Wilson following World War I for any mother who had lost a son or daughter in the war. “The original group was started by a woman named Grace Seibold when she stopped receiving mail from her son, George, who was an aviator,” Jeanette says. “She began visiting soldiers who’d been wounded and returned to hospitals in the United States, in hopes that some of them might know what had happened to her son. She even thought there was a possibility George had been wounded and couldn’t remember who he was. Unfortunately, she received word that he’d been killed.”

Even after receiving word of her son’s death, Grace continued to visit returning soldiers in local hospitals. She soon included other mothers in the same situation and formed the group known as Gold Star Mothers. Then, after years of planning, 25 mothers met in Washington D.C. on June 4, 1928 to establish a national organization known as the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., a non-denominational, non-profit and non-political organization. On Jan. 5, 1929, the organization was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia.

The state of Virginia has three chapters of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. Jeanette had been asked a few times to become president but says she wasn’t quite ready. “What did I have to offer a group like that?” she wondered. “But the last time they asked me, I said yes.” It is her responsibility to promote the organization and to invite other mothers who have lost sons or daughters who served and died while in the service of the Armed Forces of the United States of America or its Allies.

In order to honor Zach and the others who have lost their lives in service to their country, Jeanette returns to Paulding every year to decorate a Christmas tree at the John Paulding Historical Society for its annual Festival of Trees. “I just like to keep our name out there and to share information about American Gold Star Mothers with others,” she says. “We find mothers almost every day who don’t know about us but who are looking for a group of women who know what it’s like to have lost a child.”

Because the members of American Gold Star Mothers Inc. always dress in white when they are recruiting or going to conventions, Jeanette’s Christmas tree at the museum is all white with gold garland, ornaments and, of course, stars. She also cuts out construction-paper stars and prints the name of a fallen soldier from the area on each one before hanging it on the tree.

Even though he’s been gone for nearly 15 years, Zach’s legacy lives on. His daughter, Trinity, recently graduated summa cum laude from D.C. Everest High School in Wausau, Wis. This fall, she began classes at Ohio Northern University with a double major in biology and performing arts. “Her goal is to become a trauma surgeon,” Jeanette adds. “She has her dad’s talent, so I have no doubt she’ll achieve her goal. Zach would have been very proud of her.”