Mother carries on with duties familiar from her nightmares

TACOMA — Holly Burson is living her worst nightmare, but she hasn’t had time to grieve the loss of her son in Iraq.

She knows the tears will come. But not now.

“I’ve been taking care of everyone else,” said Burson of Tacoma.

On Tuesday, she finalized the funeral arrangements for her son, Pfc. Jerome Potter, 24, a Fort Hood, Texas, soldier killed last week while on patrol in Baghdad. His funeral will be held within two weeks.

They had lived in Yelm, where Potter would sneak onto Fort Lewis to watch soldiers train, his mother said. He worked briefly at the KFC in Tumwater before quitting so he could watch Fourth of July fireworks, she said.

Burson said that last summer, before Potter’s deployment in October, she had nightmares about casualty officers knocking on her door. The nightmares so disrupted her sleep that she went to a doctor, who prescribed her medication to treat the anxiety, she said.

That couldn’t shield her from the pain when she heard a knock on the door Thursday.

“When I found out, a part of me died; a big part of me died,” she said.

Burson has received supportive e-mails from other Gold Star mothers as well as from family members of some of the six Fort Lewis soldiers killed Sunday.

“I feel their loss,” she said. “My heart feels for them.”

She intends to forward them a poem that a neighbor penned to help bring her comfort.

“It gave me a sense to stand strong through this,” she said.

Many whom she has read the poem to have cried, she said, and she, too, knows her own tears will come. But not yet.

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