Mike Kondor of York, PA.  Mike and his wife Cher took great pride in their professional lives, but drew even more fulfillment and joy from their family and their children's achievements.  One of their sons, Specialist Martin Kondor, was killed by a roadside bomb while serving with the Army in Baquba, Iraq in 2004. The Kondors lost someone precious, but they have turned Martin's death into a catalyst for community action.  We'll profile Martin Kondor and other fallen heroes, as well as their American Gold Star Mothers, on Smart Talk, Thursday night at 8 on witf"> Mike Kondor of York, PA.  Mike and his wife Cher took great pride in their professional lives, but drew even more fulfillment and joy from their family and their children's achievements.  One of their sons, Specialist Martin Kondor, was killed by a roadside bomb while serving with the Army in Baquba, Iraq in 2004. The Kondors lost someone precious, but they have turned Martin's death into a catalyst for community action.  We'll profile Martin Kondor and other fallen heroes, as well as their American Gold Star Mothers, on Smart Talk, Thursday night at 8 on witf"> Mike Kondor of York, PA.  Mike and his wife Cher took great pride in their professional lives, but drew even more fulfillment and joy from their family and their children's achievements.  One of their sons, Specialist Martin Kondor, was killed by a roadside bomb while serving with the Army in Baquba, Iraq in 2004. The Kondors lost someone precious, but they have turned Martin's death into a catalyst for community action.  We'll profile Martin Kondor and other fallen heroes, as well as their American Gold Star Mothers, on Smart Talk, Thursday night at 8 on witf"> A Tribute to Pennsylvania's Fallen Heroes - Smart Talk TV | Smart Talk | witf.org
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A Tribute to Pennsylvania's Fallen Heroes - Smart Talk TV

Written by Nell McCormack Abom, Host Smart Talk TV | May 25, 2011 7:00 PM

In my early television career, I worked with a talented videographer, Mike Kondor of York, PA.  Mike and his wife Cher took great pride in their professional lives, but drew even more fulfillment and joy from their family and their children's achievements.  One of their sons, Specialist Martin Kondor, was killed by a roadside bomb while serving with the Army in Baquba, Iraq in 2004. The Kondors lost someone precious, but they have turned Martin's death into a catalyst for community action.  We'll profile Martin Kondor and other fallen heroes, as well as their American Gold Star Mothers, on Smart Talk, Thursday night at 8 on witf TV.

Martin enlisted in the Army in 2002 and was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment.  In Iraq, he volunteered for a risky assignment: as gunner on a Humvee providing personal security to a colonel who traveled every day from the secure Army base to meet in a town with Iraqi officials.  Their convoy was a popular target for insurgents. On April 29, 2004, a roadside bomb took Martin's life.

Mike wrote a moving tribute to his son that appeared as an op-ed in the New York Times in 2009.  As he reflected on the meaning of Memorial Day, Mike wrote that he had come to a new appreciation of the holiday. He noted,  " ... while most people think of Memorial Day as just a day off from work, an occasion for a backyard cookout or a chance to score a good deal at a spectacular sale, for families like mine, Memorial Day has a more somber meaning. For us, the day is a further reminder that our loved one is gone forever.

"It's not that we need another reminder. Not a day goes by that we don't think of Martin. My wife and I each carry one of his dog tags with us at all times. His picture hangs on the living room wall with those of his two brothers, and his bedroom has been left essentially as it was when he was alive. Two of the last packages we sent to him were returned after his death, and they've sat unopened in a corner of the room ... "

Rather than linger in their grief, however, Mike and Cher, who joined the Pennsylvania department of the American Gold Star Mothers, started a fundraising drive to create a Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing & Peace Garden in York.  The garden, to be built in Veterans Memorial Park, will become a sanctuary of hope, teaming with floral life that will flourish and honor the troops who have fallen in the War on Terror.

York Water Company President and CEO Jeff Hines served a tour of duty in Kuwait and Afghanistan in 2002 as a member of the Army Reserves.  He is chairman of York County's Joint Veterans' Council Supreme Sacrifice Committee and a major supporter of the garden project. He will join Cher Kondor on Thursday night's program.  (For more information on how to register for a May 30 bike/run/walk fundraiser for the garden, click here.) 

Barbara Benard of Columbia, Lancaster County shares the pain felt by the Kondors.  Her son, Sgt. 1st Class Brent Allen Adams, was killed in action in Ramadi, Iraq on December, 1 2005.  He was 40 years old and a member of the Army National Guard, 2nd Battalion Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, when a rocket-propelled IED hit his vehicle.  He had wanted to give his men a break that day, so he volunteered for a mission to help the Marines build a new base for the Iraqi Army.  He left behind his wife, Marilyn, and then-4-year-old son Daniel.

"I was scared when he was being deployed to Iraq, especially when I found out he was going to Ramadi, because that was an insurgent stronghold back in 2005," Barb says. 

Brent's death led her to join the American Gold Star Mothers.  It comforts her and allows her to keep alive the memory of her son.  "Another mother who has been through a similar experience of losing a child, especially in battle in a violent way, has an understanding between the two of you that no one else can ever understand," Barb explains. "They provide support to each other.  We can tell each other the story of our sons so they will never be forgotten.  It's like a sisterhood that bonds us together."

Barb is national treasurer of the AGSM and a past president of the Pennsylvania Department of the AGSM.  She helps with community projects, like the Peace Garden in York, to ensure that all of us remember the lasting contributions of Brent and other fallen fighters.   "We have had several fundraisers throughout the years to raise money for a scholarship in his memory at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  And I also take part in patriotic events like Wreaths Across America."  

The national American Gold Star Mothers has helped raise money for the Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, a "comfort home" where families of the fallen can stay for free as they await the return of their loved one's body.  A similar house is planned for Pittsburgh. 

Maureen Fromm of Stewartstown, York County, lost her oldest son, Lt. Friedrich Fromm, in a training accident at Fort Benning, Georgia, in November 1988.  "Fritz,"as he was known to family and close friends, had been the top ROTC cadet at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and was commander of the entire ROTC company his senior year.   He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant as he graduated and was undergoing advanced training at Ft. Benning as a member of the 101st Airborne.  Maureen's second son, Jason, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1992 and went to flight school to fly "heavy" planes.  He serves now as a Lt. Colonel, flying out of McGuire Air Force Base.  And her youngest son, James, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1990.  He was a combat engineer with the 24th Mechanised Infantry and served two years of active duty, most of that in Operation Desert Storm.  James returned home a Specialist and served several more years in the Army Reserves.

Before he died, Fritz had encouraged his parents to adopt children.  They did - three siblings with special needs.  It's a fascinating story of love and devotion to country that Maureen, an American Gold Star Mother, will share with us tomorrow night.

As we get ready to celebrate Memorial Day, let's reflect on something Mike Kondor wrote in 2009.   " ... before heading out to the big sale or the opening of the town pool or the neighbors' backyard barbecue, take some time to attend a local Memorial Day ceremony," he suggested. "Do this not just to glance over the gravestones or the plaques or the markers that list the fallen soldiers' names, but out of respect for the friends, family members and comrades they leave behind — some of whom have died or are still alive or have yet to confront their fate."

We welcome your questions and tributes to the troops Thursday night at 8. Please call in live to 1-800-729-7532, send an email to smarttalk@witf.org,or post a comment to witf's facebook.

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