DENTON – The 550 ornaments on display at the Courthouse on the Square in Denton date back to 2004. That was when Manuel Sauseda’s son, Ernest, died in Iraq –– the first Denton casualty claimed in combat.
“There are people out there who don’t know you but care the most,” Sauseda said.
People like Bryson Gappa, who is responsible for the project. With the Iraq War over, Denton County is ensuring that thousands share in the tribute.
“Not many would take that much time and effort to honor so many,” said Louis Aguirre, whose son Nathaniel died in Iraq in 2006 as a combat medic.
In late 2011, when Gappa declared ‘Mission Accomplished,’ she decided to send the ornaments to families of the 434 victims she memorialized up to that point. She also started another tree honoring 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 told News 8 then.
On Tuesday, that moment came. Relatives of the fallen weren’t the only ones brought to tears as Denton County honored the tribute –– so was Gappa, so touched by the recognition she appreciates, but never asked for.
“When I did it,” she said, “I just did it because I felt I had to.”
And although Gappa wants everyone to see the tribute, she wants something else even more.
“People to find one person’s ornament, story, face; something that sticks with them,” she said.