A FAMILY AT WAR

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Read a Q&A with the mother of soldier Jeff Kaylor. Find out how the Kaylor family has changed, two years after Jeff's death in Iraq.

Interview with Roxanne Kaylor, October 2005.

Jeff died in April of 2003. How are you feeling now?

I feel basically the same, meaning the deep loss, moments of teary eyes and the yearning to see him again has not subsided, nor ever will. Most people in the U.S. cannot comprehend the immense loss this family nor myself have experienced because of what we knew then and what we know now, about the way we went to war.

How is Jeff’s widow Jenna faring? Is she still in the military?

Jenna is now out of the Army and bought a nice townhouse here in the same area where we live. She is employed with a defense contractor and travels a lot with her job. She gets together with other widow spouses that have settled in the area and has formed a support group.

We don’t hear much about Jeff’s sisters in the film. How do they feel about the war, and how are they coping with the loss?

Tricia, my oldest daughter, has had an emotional roller coaster for a while. She keeps Mike and myself close in her daily life. She feels obligated to keep me busy and not to be sad. Cindy, the youngest, was eight years younger than Jeff so she deals with the sorrow from within.

How has your son’s death affected your family?

Both Mike and I gave up a son to this war and that is a living tragedy we deal with daily.  Mike likes to say that I must live for the living and not dwell on the past.

The family gets very emotional when we talk at lengths about Jeff, even if we recall old laughable memories. The tears still flow like water. If you would have known Jeff, he was a very compassionate fellow and loved his animals. He never wanted to see any kind of animal suffer and had a nurturing streak within him to help animals in stress. So, when the family thinks of Jeff and how he died—such a traumatic blunt force to the head—we can only think of how utterly helpless the family was to rescue him in his time of utter pain and distress. I live this every day knowing I could not help him. I visualize his death play out in my mind every day.

Has the debate within the family about the necessity of this war changed things? If so, how?

We don’t speak of the reason the U.S. went to war, because you can’t change the past now. Both Mike and I gave up a son to this war and that is a living tragedy we deal with daily. Mike likes to say that I must live for the living and not dwell on the past.

In the film, you are writing to your senator. Have you since become active in any type of political group?

I still write my senators at least once a month, but still my letters have not made any difference to the way they support Bush and Associates. They will not try to end the war in Iraq. I think Congress knows more about the reasons why we invaded but has failed to inform its U.S. citizens. I guess the death of 2,000 (and counting) soldiers is no big deal. Let's keep sacrificing our loved ones, for what?

How do you feel about groups using the death of soldiers to either protest the war or rally support for it? Are they exploiting the soldiers for political motives, or are they being respectful?

America needs to know the pain of war and how it affected us.  We are a very simple, middle-class, hardworking, uncomplicated family.  We are the majority in America.

Cindy Sheehan had time and capital to spread her feelings about how a mother feels to lose a son in an unjust war. Anger takes on many forms (I can attest to that) and Cindy’s was much more visual to the human eye. It evoked an overwhelming response from the American public to want Bush & Associates to show some kind of compassion for this grieving mom. Cindy was real and had a legitimate voice from the heart. The spin masters were trying to paint her as a person who was strictly anti-war, and not aligned to the mission of the soldiers in Iraq. Not the message I got from her. She just wants peace and no killing. She doesn’t want another family to go through the misery we both suffer daily in the loss of our sons.

The broadcast of this documentary on PBS and the ensuing attention may bring up more emotions. Are you prepared for that? How do you feel about being in the public eye with your family’s personal story?

America needs to know the pain of war and how it affected us. We are a very simple, middle-class, hardworking, uncomplicated family. We are the majority in America. The majority has the right to make a change and let its voice be heard. I hope this documentary evokes a change in someone to make a difference in 2006!

Do you think families with a tradition of military service, such as yours, are more prepared to deal with the death of a loved one during battle?

No. This family was not prepared for the death of Jeff. Please remember, this nation has had 30 years of peacetime. There needs to be something said about that. Like diplomacy and détente is exercised amongst our top leaders to promote peace.

Find out how families are putting a human face on the war debate.
Read Families Speak Out >>

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