Everything happened so fast. It was April 5, 2011, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kacy Ray was assigned to the 3rd Marine Regiment, located on Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Kacy and his wife, Lilian, lived in base housing.
On workdays, he would often go home for lunch, and on that day – a day he’ll never forget – he had just returned to work and was heading to a cargo lot to take care of some things. That’s when he got the phone call.
It was Kacy’s uncle. He sounded upset. He began slowly, delivering the news. He said that Kacy’s parents – both in their 60s – were driving from their home in North Carolina through Tennessee on a vacation when they’d gotten into a car accident. It was bad. Both of them were killed.
“It sent me into shock,” Kacy says. “The world just didn’t make sense anymore.”
Not knowing what to do, Kacy got out of the car and just sat on the grass, stunned. A sergeant who was nearby came over to help. That sergeant told Kacy’s boss what had happened, and then he took Kacy home. He was one of the first in a long line of people, including those from the Society, who did so much to help.
Luckily for Kacy and his wife, they lived near two friends on the base, Kim and Leah. Both were volunteers with the Society’s Kaneohe Bay office. By the time Kacy made it home, still in a state of shock, Kim and Leah had already started taking action.
It was complicated. Kacy’s parents lived in North Carolina. They died in Tennessee. And they had previously made plans to be buried in Florida.
So, first things first, Kacy and Lilian needed to get from Hawaii to North Carolina, and thanks to the Society, they had their plane tickets in hand that very same day.
“Kim and Leah did everything,” Kacy says. “They booked the rental car and got the flight. The Society paid for it, and set up the repayment schedule. I think we flew out three hours after I learned my parents passed away.”
Lilian agrees wholeheartedly. “From the moment this thing happened, Kim and Leah started talking with their Director,” she says. “They started planning. We got back to our house, and we couldn’t even believe it.”
There were so many details the Society covered that Kacy was unable to handle at the time. “Looking back, the task seems simple – child’s play for a mobility officer,” he says. “But I couldn’t. I couldn’t put the pieces together.” And yet there was so much to do.
For example, Kacy and Lilian had to go and collect all of Kacy’s parents’ belongings accumulated over their lifetime. “The Society helped us find a moving company,” Lilian says, “so we could move some of his parent’s more sentimental things back to Hawaii.” There was a massive armoire that Kacy’s parents received as a wedding gift. There were the paintings that Kacy’s dad, an art lover, had collected. These and other precious items had to be taken care of, and Kacy and Lilian were relieved to have help from the Society.
There was still more. The bodies of Kacy’s parents were in a funeral home in Tennessee. They had to be transferred to three funeral homes before they could reach Florida, where they were buried. “I don’t know how we would have managed to do all that,” Kacy says.
The emergency funds provided by the Society, as vital as they were, made up only a part of the help Kacy and Lilian received. “I always thought of the Society as an organization that helps with financial problems,” Kacy says, “but now I have a much better appreciation for the safety net the Society provides. They really care.”
It was a trying time in their lives, and Kacy and Lilian realized after this personal tragedy that they have lots of support. They received calls from everyone around them, including the regimental commander, and they even received a handwritten letter from the three-star general of the Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa.
But what impressed them most was the caring from the Society. “I’ve been a military spouse for eight years,” Lilian says, “and the Society really fills a void in terms of support in ways that people don’t realize. It felt like we had an entire organization that would check in with us.” Kacy and Lilian are grateful that, thanks to the Society, they now have family heirlooms from Kacy’s parents. “My kids aren’t going to see their grandparents,” she says, “but they’re going to see their pictures in our house, his mom’s sewing kit, and things like that. Those things have real value to us.”
Nothing can heal the hurt from a personal tragedy like this, but with your support, the Society was there for Kacy and Lilian when they needed us the most. “The Society covered everything,” Kacy says. “They knew what to do, and they did so much.” That’s why Kacy volunteers as the Society’s active-duty fund-drive coordinator for his command, sharing his story and spreading the word to other Sea Service members.
Kacy and Lilian’s story shows that your support for Sailors, Marines, and their families means the world to them. Each time you give, you really are taking care of our own.