Karen Funcheon is the state board director of the AFWMF Gold Star Committee for Kansas. She lives in Wichita with her husband Bob. Their daughter is going to grad school at Kansas University in Lawrence. Sgt Alex Funcheon their son was killed April 29, 2007 in Baghdad. Since then Karen has been active in starting a Gold Star Family group in the Wichita area. She also facilitates a Gold Star Family group online on Facebook. It has been her mission to reach out to other Gold Star Families in friendship and emotional support. Karen has been in the Health care profession as an Activity Director in an Assited living for the past 10 years. Her hobbies include quilting, sewing, painting, gardening, photography, jewelry making, genealogy and facebook. She is excited to be a part of this great project to honor all the soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the battlefield or stateside.
Pat Mracek is the President of the NE Gold Star Mothers. She organized the group in 2007 spending many hours finding parents’ names and addresses. The groups holds twice yearly events to get together and support each other. Pat states, “We have become very good friends because of the grief we have in common.” Pat has helped others organize many events that include the Gold Star Families. Pat’s son, Sgt. Cory R. Mracek was killed by an IED in Iskandaryiah, Iraq on January 27, 2004. He was stationed with the 82nd Airborne and had only been in country 8 days. It was his dream to become a member of the 82nd and had just achieved that dream six weeks earlier. Pat was instrumental in getting Gold Star License Plates in NE. She received the first personalized plate in a ceremony with Governor Heineman in Lincoln, NE. Pat is Chapter Leader and organizer of The Compassionate Friends of NW Nebraska which is a group for bereaved parents. She also Co-Chair the NE Honor and Remember Flag Committee and will be appointed chair in January. The last several years Pat’s efforts have been focused on helping others and making sure that Americans know what Gold Star means. Pat has spoken at openings of Vietnam walls, haave helped American Legion and VFW with Veterans events and spent many hours and dollars sending packages overseas to our troops. Pat says, “It is very important to me that our Fallen and our Veterans never be forgotten so that is one reason I volunteered to be a part of this group. What a wonderful tribute this will be for them!” Pat lives in Hay Springs, NE with my husband Jim who farms. I have two daughters, Stacy and Heather. Stacy is the mother of her only precious granddaughter, Shelby. Pat works at Chadron State College in the mailroom and was previously employed by the USPS.
Jessica Tingley is a full-time volunteer for various organizations that provide support to military families, particularly Gold Star Families. Her younger brother, Sgt Joshua J. Kirk was killed in action on October 3rd, 2009 in Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Like her brother, Jessica is an avid runner who enjoys adventure and obstacle course racing. She is the event organizer for Run for the Fallen-Idaho, an annual run that honors and remembers Fallen Soldiers with ties to Idaho. She intends to dedicate the rest of her life to ensuring that no one forgets the names, faces and the sacrifices made by this country’s Fallen Warriors.Jessica lives in beautiful North Idaho with her teenage son Mark, life partner Adam, and their Border Terrier, Sophie.
Christina Penrod lives in Thomasboro, Illinois. In 2004 she met her husband Spc. Justin O. Penrod when he was working for an a/c company at her parents house. From that day they were always together. “We met July 1st 2004 he told me he loved me after the fire works on July 4h 2004.” Justin’s National Guard unit was sent to Bulgaria for 2 weeks, upon his return Justin asked Christina to marry him. In September 2004, Justin’s National Guard Unit was called up to head to Iraq for 18 months. Justin and Christina decided to get married before he deployed. They were married November 1st 2004. Justin left for Iraq and a long 18 months. In June 2006 they found out we were pregnant and were so excited. When they found out it was a boy, Justin was more excited. On December 1st 2006, there were complications with the pregnancy and Christina had to deliver at 27 months. Justin spent the next 3 month in the NICU by Colin’s side. In Feb. 2007 Colin came home. They were so excited that their baby boy was finally home. Justin and Christina decided that going active duty would be best for their family. They moved to Ft. Stewart, Georgia in July and were very excited to start a new chapter. Shortly after getting settled on base they were informed that Justin would be leaving for Iraq. They moved their family back Illinois and said their goodbyes. Justin left for Iraq at the end of July 2007. He was there for two weeks when he was hit by an IED. On Aug 11, 2007 Christina got the dreadful knock on the door telling her that her husband had been killed. She was filled with so many emotions. Christina has worked very hard to overcome depression and grief. After 3 years she met a man and started dating him and is now engaged. Christina and her fiancé have an adorable 9 month old named Zachary. Christina stated, “I am trying to move forward in my life because I know Justin would want me to be happy.” Christina is a volunteer with the Red Cross of and is Illinois and is working towards her degree in Occupational/Physical Therapy. She hopes to work with the wounded at Walter Reed upon completion of her degree. “I feel like I need to give back and help out. I’m very excited to be the State Gold Star Family Director for IL.”
Bev was born in Indiana. Her family later moved to the Phoenix, AZ where she spent most of her life. While Cortez High School, Bev was actively involved in sports, journalism and student government. She received a tennis scholarship to Glendale Community College where she was the captain of the team and the No. 1 player. She spent her working years teaching tennis in the Phoenix area and coaching the Glendale Community womens volleyball and tennis teams. Bev is the mother of five children. Her daughter Andrea is married to Kirk Fauber, she is a homemaker and mother of 4 children; Son, Jared Sarten, US Army Ranger, is currently stationed in Alaska after two tours in Afghanistan. He is married to Leslie Huckey and they have 2 children. Son, Matthew Sarten, was killed in a home fire when he was 28. Daughter, Katie is married to Brandon Lykins, she has 4 children and she is a RN in the OB department at a hospital in Seymour IN. Son Russell Sarten, is 21 and attending Ball State University in Muncie, IN. Bev is very interested in in AFWMF as her father was in the Korean Conflict, her first husband and the father of her children served during Vietnam, and returned for Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and her son Jared has almost 10 years in the Army. Bev currently lives in Dayton, so she can be closer to her kids and grandkids. Bev is very exited become an active AFWMF team member!
Matt and Tiffany met just five short days after his return from his second deployment, his first tour in Afghanistan. Immediately, the two were inseparable.
Matt and Tiffany were engaged on November 2, 2009, and married on January 2, 2010, just seven weeks before his third deployment, second to Afghanistan, on February 24, 2010. They had plans for a future: a honeymoon to St. Lucia during his R&R in October 2010, a family, and a life together. The two kept their love and life alive through phone calls, chat, and emails as time and resources allowed.
Matt was sadly killed in action on September 21, 2010, just four weeks before his anticipated R&R leave from deployment. He was in a Blackhawk Helicopter accident in Qalat, Afghanistan.
Since his death, Tiffany has tried to regain her life and purpose. She decided to continue with their dream of having a family, and has recently finalized adoption of Gabriel Louis Wagstaff. He is his “Angel Daddy’s” namesake, as Gabriel is Matt’s middle name, and Louis is the middle name of Tiffany’s father, and first name of Matthew’s maternal grandfather. It is the name they had picked out for their first born son while having discussions of their future family.
Tiffany is very excited to be joining the AFWMF as a State Director so that she can assist with the fruition of the vision of Tonya Evans, who has been an inspiration and support of all Gold Star Families, honoring to Never Forget the Ultimate Sacrifice of our Fallen Heroes.