'Mission accomplished' for Lewisville woman honoring Iraq war dead

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on December 20, 2011 at 11:00 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 6:48 AM

LEWISVILLE — A Lewisville woman who vowed to honor every Texan killed in Iraq says like the men and women who served there, her mission is also complete.

We introduced you to Bryson Gappa more than six years ago. At that time, 169 Americans had died in the war.

Many more have died since then, but now that U.S. soldiers have left Iraq, Gappa says it's time for her memorial to come down.

Every ornament on her memorial tree has a face and a name. Gappa started the project seven years ago. Over time, she's placed 434 ornaments — one for every Texas killed in Iraq.

Her mission is to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

"Seven years later, it's the most important contribution I'll make in my lifetime," Gappa said. "It's the most important thing I'll ever do."

As the news spread about Gappa's three ornament-filled oak trees, she began hearing from some of the families and friends of those she honored — including a Marine who stopped by her house.

"We stood out here in the yard for about two hours. And he told me about his friend Jesus from Forth Worth. And he was with Jesus that day in Iraq," Gappa recalled.

Bryson Gappa would now like to send the ornaments to the families of the 434 who died. But she said she would never call them, out of respect for their privacy. She's hoping they will contact her.

"In a strange way, I will miss them. I've gotten to know them. We're very familiar, these 434 and I. And we will miss them," she said.

Gappa will take down the ornaments from her trees on New Year's Eve, including the first Texan who died in Iraq and the last. But she says her work is not finished.

Another tree honors those lost in Afghanistan. "I look forward to the day when I can take down the Afghanistan tree and have a house like everybody else," she said.

Gappa asks any families of the soldiers she honored who would like the ornaments sent to them to contact her at this e-mail address: txmemorialtrees@gmail.com.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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