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'That Hole Is Always In Your Heart': Gold Star Family Remembers Their Son On Memorial Day

Army Cpl. Jordan E. Goode. (Courtesy)
Army Cpl. Jordan E. Goode. (Courtesy)

Growing up, Army Cpl. Jordan E. Goode’s smile melted the hearts of his parents — and a lot of girls.

His parents, Tony and Sheri Goode of Kalamazoo, Michigan, say even though Jordan Goode was their middle child, the young thrill seeker was a fierce protector of his two brothers, Domonique and Kelsey Goode.

“You always wanted Jordan on your side because he would go to the ends of the Earth to protect you and make sure that everything was OK,” Sheri Goode says.

His love for others, especially his family, drew out that protective quality in him, Tony Goode says. Their son was also undeniably a people person: Tony Goode once brought his then-teenage son to work one day and Tony Goode’s coworkers all agreed that Jordan Goode could come back anytime.

Their son was also a talented artist who was offered, but declined, a scholarship to an art school.

Jordan Goode was only in middle school when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks happened, but what unfolded on 9/11 stuck with him forever, his dad says.

“You never suspect that it would affect a young person so far away that hard. And we had many, many conversations about 9/11 from all sides of it,” Tony Goode recalls. “And I think that was one of those things where he thought maybe if he got involved, that he could be a help.”

So it wasn’t too surprising when he enlisted in the U.S. military in 2005 after he and his future wife, Aubrey Goode, discovered she was pregnant with their daughter, Amirah. To provide for his family, Sheri Goode says he decided to skip college, which would have taken too long, and join the Army where he was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Amirah was only 2 years old when she lost her father — Jordan Goode died while deployed in Afghanistan on Aug. 11, 2007, after a five-truck convoy he was leading exploded from a roadside bomb. He was 21 years old.

The Goodes say their granddaughter, who is now a teenager, is the “she-version” of their son in every way possible. “She looks like him. She acts like him. She is a jokester like him. She truly embodies him,” Sheri Goode says.

“She has taken his place as the humorist in our house,” Tony Goode adds with a laugh.

Jordan Goode met his wife around the same age that Amirah is now. Sheri Goode says it’s difficult to believe so much time has gone by since they lost their beloved son.

Their granddaughter will soon be graduating, a situation that has turned into a “a full-circle moment, I guess,” Sheri Goode says. “Not a great one, because he’s not here to share it.”

As time passes, Sheri Goode says the grief lives with her and her husband every day.

“I tell people it’s different. It gets different — not easier — because that hole is always in your heart for sure,” she says.

They’ve found a community to help them grieve. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, known as TAPS, puts on events for people who are mourning the death of a military loved one. The organization provides resources and connects people who understand the pain and grief of losing a military family member or friend to conflict, suicide or accidents, Tony Goode says.

They’ve sent their granddaughter to Good Grief Camp through the program and have taken retreats with other survivors. Tony Goode went on a TAPS men’s retreat which helped him talk openly about the pain of losing his son, something he was resistant to at first, he says.

Now both Sheri and Tony Goode are peer mentors through TAPS.

“It’s not an easy path. It’s not something that you, in a lot of cases, really want to do,” he says. “But it’s a lot easier when you know you’ve got the support of people who’ve been through the same thing.”

Being together and talking about their son’s life hasn’t been easy for Sheri and Tony Goode’s other two children. The tragedy was “probably one of the most difficult things that they endured in their lives,” Tony Goode says.

The family has enjoyed amusement parks as a way for them to all get together and celebrate Jordan Goode’s adventurous spirit. Tony Goode says he even tried a roller coaster — one of his son’s favorite rides — even though he’s not a big fan. “I do it for him,” Tony Goode says.

To remember their “wonderful, loving, spirited” son on Memorial Day this year, the Goodes say they will cry, laugh and eat some of his favorite food, including chicken and Sheri Goode’s homemade macaroni and cheese.

They’ll share stories of their son — including the time Jordan Goode called right after he jumped out of his first airplane, Tony Goode fondly remembers.

The Goodes will also play Jordan Goode’s go-to song, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Never Forget Me,” an appropriate title for a family that will never forget their son, brother, husband and father.


Alex Ashlock produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku RaySerena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.