A fallen soldier’s family finds strength to carry on
The artwork is now a focal point that commands your attention as you climb the wooden staircase from the front foyer up to a living room filled with contemporary furniture and children’s toys.
It’s been six months since she moved into the new house, but it doesn’t quite feel like “home.” One thing is missing.
This Memorial Day, Beth World will celebrate her husband, Sgt. Frank Joseph-Alfonso World of the U.S. Marines, 25, who was killed about one year ago in Afghanistan.
Frank World was scheduled to return home in May 2010, just one month after a roadside bomb claimed his life.
Before deployment, Beth World remembers the day she said goodbye to her husband from their base in Camp Lejeune, N.C. After a long and emotional parting, she watched him carefully in the rearview mirror as she drove away, with Jacob in tow.
The expectant mother was heading back to their hometown of Buffalo — hers, South Buffalo and his, Tonawanda — to be closer to family in his absence.
“About one hour into driving I received a text [message] from him that said, ‘I miss you already,’” she recalled.
She said it was love at first sight when she met her husband, who had just returned from his first deployment, in 2004.
Frank World joined the Marines shortly after graduating from Riverside Institute of Technology in 2003. He was promoted to sergeant in May 2009.
He had two years left in his contract after re-enlisting with the Marines in 2008. He planned on becoming a firefighter.
“He was a great guy,” said the 25-year-old widow. Every day, she proudly wears her husband’s dog tags around her neck.
She smiled thinking back on how her husband would quote lines from his favorite ’80s movies and play the guitar — he was self-taught — while she would cook dinner.
Her smile grew wider when she reflected on his devotion as a father to Jacob, and his anticipated first meeting with Lilly.
The couple’s last line of communication was an hour-long phone conversation roughly two weeks before his death. He had mentioned an upcoming mission.
Then on April 1, 2010, two Marines in their “dress blues” knocked on her father’s front door; she was living there until her husband came back to the states and they could return to North Carolina together.
But Beth World’s worst fear was now a reality — her husband had been killed.
“My mind went blank,” she said, admitting her immediate thought was that it was an April Fool’s joke. “Certain parts of that day are blurry ... but I remember that picture vividly.”
Suddenly, Beth World had two children that were solely her responsibility to raise. She also had a funeral to plan.
The military aided in the arrangements and also transported their belongings out of storage from North Carolina to Buffalo. She’s been here ever since, purchasing the West Seneca house in October on her own.
“I still don’t think it’s real ... that he’s going to call, but I know that’s not true,” she said.
She distinctly remembers being at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to welcome the body of her husband home, back onto American soil. A ceremony was later held at Forest Lawn Cemetery, though it was the Marine’s wish to be cremated. His urn sits peacefully in the corner of his wife’s new living room, constantly surrounded by his family.
“I hurt most for them,” said Beth World, as her eyes drifted in the direction of her children.
She noted that Jacob undeniably has his father’s outgoing, vivacious personality while Lilly has his light, yet intense eyes.
“She’s daddy’s little girl,” the mother said, quietly choking back a tear. Her voice remained calm. “It really hurt me that he wasn’t here ... he never got to meet her.”
The mother said she does as much as she can to keep the memory of her husband — their father — alive. Lilly is able to say “dada” whenever Beth World points to his picture. In both children’s rooms is a wall hanging that states, “My Daddy Fought for My Freedom,” along with a photograph of their father. To them, he is an angel in heaven.
She plans to show her children the countless emails she printed and saved from several Marines who served with her husband; each one called him a “great leade r.” She continues to receive various sympathy cards, emails and letters from the general public as recently as last week.
“I know that Frank wants me to be a strong woman, and be strong for our kids,” she said, acknowledging the heartache of the daily reminders of her husband. “It doesn’t get easier [as time goes on], maybe more manageable ... I have my bad days where I miss him a lot. I don’t think the pain will ever go away.”
The portrait that hangs in the living room was painted by Project Compassion, a nonprofit organization that requests a few colored photographs in exchange for a donated painting of a military hero. Beth World was stunned by its beauty when she received it just one week ago.
As the two World children age, the stay-at-home mother intends to involve them in some of the various military support groups; however, it’s “too soon” for her.
“I deal with things in my own way,” she said.
In the next few years when her children start school, Beth World plans on going back to college to finish an associate degree in business. She also hopes to someday start a business of her own.
In the meantime, she’s pursuing the possibility of establishing a Buffalo chapter for the Gold Star Wives of America, a nonprofit that provides support to bereaved widows whose spouses died while on active duty.
Anyone who is eligible and interested in joining the group — she said at least five people are needed to form a chapter — should contact Beth World at firstname.lastname@example.org.