Members of Waterford VFW grieve for fallen airmen

Photographs of fallen military men and women line the walls of the Waterford VFW and Auxiliary Post 6573, and soon me...

Posted: Jul 16, 2018 6:24 PM
Updated: Jul 16, 2018 6:24 PM

Photographs of fallen military men and women line the walls of the Waterford VFW and Auxiliary Post 6573, and soon members said another photograph will be added.

The Department of Defense announced on Friday that Staff Sergeant and Waterford resident James T. Grotjan died in Germany after non-combat injuries sustained while in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.

Grotjan's family said on a fundraiser page on Facebook that Staff Sgt. Grotjan was exposed to methane gas.

Auxiliary President, Gail Gagnier said she will try to meet with the Grotjan family soon.

"We don't want them to feel they have to deal with this by themselves," said Gagnier. "We want to let them know that there are people here that are willing to help them."

Gagnier told Channel 3 on Friday that she knows nothing she can say to the family will ease their pain immediately, but she said she does know what they are going through.

Gagnier's husband Arthur was a casualty of the Vietnam War. She said he came home then but passed ago three years ago from complications tied to Agent Orange.

"I have to keep a hold of my emotions because I don't want the hole that I have in my heart to open up," said Gagnier.

"And then my sorrow comes out."

Similarly, Gagnier's sister Carol Wilson lost her husband, Lester to complications tied to Agent Orange exposure the same year Arthur died.

"I just have no words," said Wilson. "My heart goes out to them and there's nothing you can do."

Wilson shared her advice on coping with the loss.

"Just try to keep him memory alive everyday," she said. "Do things in memory of them."

Both Carol and Gail are reminded everyday of their losses, but said, despite their own heartbreak, they hope to meet with Airman Grotjan's family and tell them he will never be forgotten.

"I just feel like it's something that I have to do and I know that my husband would want me to do that," said Gagnier.

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