Gold Star Father Turns Grief Into Advocacy For War
September 18, 2007
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued over time, I’m sure that many of us, especially those who are parents, have wondered how we would handle the death of our son or daughter during combat. Having a child serving in the National Guard, a step-son currently in AIT and Marty in Iraq, that thought remains in the back of my mind. I would hope, that I would handle that type of situation with as much class as John and Shawn Wroblewski have. They lost their son over two years ago and stand firmly behind the Troops, the President and the mission. Reading their story, reminds me once again, that people like Cindy Sheehan DO NOT speak for all parents who have lost their children in the war.
Two years ago, military officers showed up at the front door of John Wroblewski’s home. As soon as he saw them, he knew the horrifying news they were bearing…. the news that his oldest son had died in Iraq. Ever since that day, Wroblewski has embarked on a long journey that has taken him to Iraq to see where his son died to becoming an outspoken supporter of the war in Iraq, with his wife Shawn by his side. When I saw outspoken, that’s exactly what I mean. You can watch a video of him speaking to an anti-Murtha group in Pennsylvania in October 2006, by going
“It makes me feel that I’m doing something for my son, for what he did,” said Wroblewski. “When your son or daughter puts on that uniform, you put on that uniform.”
The Wroblewski’s son, John Thomas Wroblewski or JT as the family called him, was killed more that two years ago, on April 6, 2004 in Ramadi. He and the troops he was serving with were ambushed. JT, a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps was shot in the head, the bullet ripping through the radio he was using at the time to call for help. His father, first got word that he had been seriously injured, from his daughter-in-law. The next day was a blur as the family frantically worked to get to Germany, where injured troops are taken prior to being sent back to the United States. At 8:30pm that evening, those plans came to a halt with a knock on the door.
“I answered the door, and I saw two uniformed officers,” Wroblewski recalled. “I just said, ‘No, no, not my JT.’ They just said, ‘Can we come in? Is this the Wroblewski residence?’ And I just kept saying ‘No no, not my JT.’”
JT’s service began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. JT told his father that there was nothing more honorable than being able to serve one’s country. Though he wasn’t raised in a military family, it was obvious that JT had found his calling in the Marine Corps. He fondly spoke of the men in his unit as brothers.
One reason that Mr. Wroblewski has become such as outspoken proponent about the War is that he feels it reflects the views of his son. His son frequently told him that he felt President Bush was doing the right thing. Since JT’s death, Wroblewski has become even more outspoken. He often calls in to radio and television talk shows to talk about the war.
John and Shawn Wroblewski work with several different groups in support of the war. In a September television ad that was aired by Freedom’s Watch in support of the war, John Wroblewski calls on Congress to support the Troops. Shawn will regularly call family members of Troops killed in Iraq to offer support. They have met with President Bush on three separate occasions.
As he watches television, John will take notes, so that he has the information for future reference. He’s always sure to keep up with the latest news, such as the testimony of General Petraeus before Congress.
Wroblewski is fully aware that everything isn’t going perfectly in the war, but that he feels the United States is still making progress. One sign of that progress that Wroblewski points to is the more peaceful Anbar province - the province where his son was killed. Wroblewski is adamant in his belief that the United States went into Iraq for the right reasons and feels that we need to stick it out in order to establish a free country in Iraq.
As he worked to advocate for the war, Mr. Wroblewski was able to make the connections that would make it possible for him to visit Iraq, in January. In August 2005, as the anti-war protestors were setting up camp near the ranch of President Bush in Crawford, Texas, Mr and Mrs Wroblewski traveled there to show their support for the war. They carpooled to Crawford with radio host Martha Zoller. Afterwards, they continued to remain in contact. When Zoller was planning her second trip to Iraq and working with retired Army Lt. Col Robert Quinn, she was able to take John Wroblewski with her. Though he didn’t make it to Ramadi, he was able to visit the hospital where his son died in Baghdad and was able to better understand the place where his son spent his last weeks alive
According to Lt. Col. Quinn, not only did the trip help Mr. Wroblewski better deal with his grief, he feels that it also helped the Troops who were serving there.
“Even with his loss, he went up to talk to Soldiers,” Quinn said. “The way that he talked to kids, put his arms around them … he was that type of dad.”
Because he is so outspoken in support of the War, John Wroblewski has been compared to Cindy Sheehan. Mr. Wroblewski said that Cindy Sheehan has a right to her own opinion against the war, but he wishes to make it clear that Cindy Sheehan’s views are not shared by every parent who lost a child in Iraq. According to his son Michael, his fathers constant advocacy for the war and the attention he pays to what’s occurring has helped him deal with his loss.
“Does he obsess over it? I think so. But that’s his way of staying in touch with my brother,” said Michael. “People deal with death in different ways.”
For John Wroblewski, the mission of the Troops is something that he takes seriously and very personally. He tends to get irritated when he hears criticism of the mission or of the Troops. It’s as though that criticism is a criticism of his son.
“I really feel deep down inside that we are doing the right thing.” he said. “We as Americans have to have the intestinal fortitude to get this job done.”
Below is an interview that Mr. Wroblewski did earlier this year about his son.
Mr. Wroblewski, please accept our condolences for your loss. Thank you for raising such a fine Marine and rest assurred, sir…. Your son will never be forgotten and the sacrifice that he made, the ultimate sacrifice is appreciated, by those of us here at A Soldier’s Mind. Your son is a true American Hero.