‘They Protected Us’: A Gold Star Wife’s Moving Afghanistan Message

Crissie Carpenter lost her husband, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter, in 2011 after he was shot by a sniper in Afghanistan.

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter sends a loving message to his wife and unborn son from Afghanistan in 2011. He was later killed by an enemy sniper.

By Tom Sileo Published on August 17, 2021

Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter was shot by a sniper in Afghanistan on February 14, 2011. He died five days later.

The brave U.S. Marine left behind his devastated wife, who was unable to travel to the hospital in Germany to say goodbye because she was more than eight months pregnant. I will never forget seeing Crissie during her husband’s memorial service or reading what she wrote in the funeral program.

“He isn’t here yet,” Crissie wrote about the couple’s baby boy, Landon. “Right now he’s still in heaven with Andrew.”

Landon Carpenter was born on March 18, 2011, less than a month after his father made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. The below photograph of the newborn Gold Star child resting on his dad’s uniform has moved millions of Americans.

Afghanistan: Landon Carpenter

Landon Carpenter, son of fallen U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter, rests on his father’s uniform in 2011.

Ten years later, Landon is starting 5th grade. I’ve kept in touch with his mom, who has inspired so many with her continuing courage after suffering such an unimaginable loss.

As Afghanistan fell to the Taliban on Sunday, I asked Crissie if she had any thoughts about what was happening. The below response, which I found both remarkable and relevant, is shared with her permission.

The Perspective of a Gold Star Spouse

I try my best to keep news turned off because it stresses me, but just from what my dad updated me with today, the way I understand (it) is the Taliban has taken over in Afghanistan.

As a Gold Star spouse, it certainly does sadden me that this is happening. However, even to see this happening today, I still strongly believe my husband — along with the many others — did not die in vain.

A good friend of Andy’s that served with him in the Marines once told me about a conversation he and Andy had one night while on deployment. He said they were talking about missing home and reasons why they were there. He said they both agreed they were doing this so that we may all sleep peacefully in our beds.

Did we get the end results we wanted and fought for? No, but what did those men and women do all these years? They protected us. They fought for the innocent overseas. I believe they were saving lives each day they were there just simply by being present.

Do I feel we should have stayed as long as we did? Not really. Will I ever feel like my husband died for no cause? Never. He is and always will be a hero in me and my son’s eyes.

We all need to pray hard for those who are frightened in Afghanistan.

Indeed. We also need to pray for Crissie, Landon and all Gold Star family members, veterans and brave U.S. troops. To them, we owe everything.


Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of Three Wise Men, Brothers Forever, 8 Seconds of Courage and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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