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Mother Of Slain Soldier Tells First Lady What She Wants

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Several Minnesota military families got special recognition from the first lady, Michelle Obama, when she visited the Twin Cities to meet with them.

Mrs. Obama participated in a roundtable discussion. She and Dr. Jill Biden selected a handful of Minnesota groups because of their commitment to service.

“It’s so important to shine a spotlight on what you all are doing, and that’s what Joining Forces is all about,” she told the group.

She arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at about 3:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. She got the spotlight, including a meet-and-great from leaders and a warm welcome from several Minnesota military families. In the first lady’s shadow was a grieving mother, Tracy Clark, from New London, Minn.

Her son, Ryane, was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle in Afghanistan. He was 22-years-old.

“I did everything I could to hold back the tears,” she said, following her time with Mrs. Obama.

She told Mrs. Obama her son’s service. She also voiced her story of sadness.

“People need to know there are a lot of Gold Star families out there suffering,” Clark said.

She feels they’re forgotten. Clark wants Gold Star license plates displayed at the driver’s license offices.

“I want it displayed so that people know,” she said. “They see my license plate, and they have no clue what that means. It says ‘Gold Star families’ on there. What’s a Gold Star family?”

Mrs. Obama was attentive, listening to military families and the heads of groups that support them.

“In addition to encouraging individuals and organizations to do great things, is to highlight the good work that’s happening,” she told the group. “You’re doing me a favor. You’re educating me. You’re educating the nation. I’m grateful to you all, grateful for the sacrifices you all make.”

Mrs. Obama told the table that they should be proud of how they’re helping. She met with the group for about an hour. She’d like to find ways to take Minnesota’s best practices and replicate them nationally.

Representatives from Serving Our Troops and those from several groups that were finalists in the Joining Forces Initiative were on hand. They include the Armed Forces Service Center, Defending the Blue Line and GreenCare for Troops.

“She was grateful and said we will work on that,” said Clark, speaking about what Mrs. Obama said in regards to her idea. “And I said, ‘Awesome.'”

Clark felt encouraged. Although she’ll never stop grieving for her son, she said she felt different for a moment.

“I’m happy,” she said.

She left stronger, knowing someone important cares.

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