A Racing Tribute: Mother of Marine killed in Iraq works on Md. steeplechase benefit
May 17, 2010
A Racing Tribute
Mother of Marine killed in Iraq works on Md. steeplechase benefiting troops
By Michael Laris
Memorials come in many forms.
The one for Cpl. Kirk Bosselmann on Sunday afternoon at the Potomac Hunt Races came with a galloping charge by Domino Effect, Bold Initiative and Blueberry Muffin.
Years before Bosselmann became a Marine scout sniper in Iraq and was killed in Fallujah in 2004 at 21, he sprinted through the fields of northern Montgomery County with his mom, dad and sister.
"He had no fear. We were lucky enough to find a horse who matched his mentality," said his mother, Beverley Bosselmann. "Kirk used to go out and just throw a halter on this little quarter horse . . . without a bridle, without a saddle, just him and his friend, Jack, jumping the fence line, having fun."
Beverley Bosselmann and a group of volunteers worked for months to ready the rolling steeplechase course for the 58th running of the hunt races, held north of the Potomac River near Darnestown. This year's event was expected to raise a few thousand dollars for the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which provides services for injured troops and their family members.
On a recent visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Beverley Bosselmann asked a room full of injured service members to go to the races. They applauded her.
"They have friends that they lost, and they are still alive," she said. "They understand my anguish, because they are going through such anguish too."
On Sunday, she stared at the racecourse's entrance, her voice catching moments before the bus from Walter Reed arrived.
"Here it comes," she said, holding onto her broad white mesh hat as she sped off to greet them.
Sgt. Lyndon Sampang came to the races with his mother and grandmother. He had arrived in Afghanistan's Paktika province in February to help guard a village and small market and was hit by armor-piercing shrapnel as he returned from patrol one night in March.
In the jolt of adrenaline, he said, he grabbed his weapon but realized he couldn't get up. "I grabbed my flashlight and saw my foot, and it's facing the other way," said Sampang, whose right leg was amputated below the knee.
During his first tour of duty, Sampang went to Iraq with the Alaska National Guard. Then shortly after the Philippine native became a U.S. citizen, he was in Afghanistan as a team leader with the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. Kirk Bosselmann, who was born in Canada, had become an American citizen months before he was killed.
"I'm hurt, I'm here, I'm still alive, and the only thing I can do now is recover and get back to my unit," Sampang said.
Sampang saw the three-part Cpl. Kirk J. Bosselmann Memorial Race and the card of races that followed. He said he eyed Kentucky horse farms when he was at Fort Campbell before his deployment.
"Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to ride a horse," he said.
There were other memorials Sunday.
Marti and Ed Kirkpatrick hung a photo of their son Scott, who was killed in Iraq in 2007, in their photography booth among the vendors in the infield. The postmaster in the small community of Dickerson connected the Bosselmanns and the Kirkpatricks after realizing what both couples had lost, and they became close.
"If people will listen to us because we paid the ultimate price, good," Marti Kirkpatrick said. "Don't feel sorry for us. Remember the men and women who have come home, or are still there."
Beverley Bosselmann spent the day veering between tears and the details required to pull off the huge community undertaking, including assigning gatekeepers and making sure that horses in demonstrations didn't dig up the ground in front of the wooden jumping fences.
As Bosselmann walked beside the grandstand, Amjad Riar, a gerontologist originally from Pakistan, stopped her and asked her to be in a picture with his 6-year-old son, Salar.
"One day, we'll get you on a pony," she told Salar. "You'll be in the race."