RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- --
In 1952, Joy Currie, a young wife to an Air Force master sergeant in Koblenz, Germany, was staying in Wiesbaden awaiting the birth of her first child, a little boy.
Arriving a week late, Gary Currie was born a full-term, 8-pound baby on Sept. 17, but there was a problem.
“I was barely 18 years old,” Joy said. “Very naïve. I saw him when he was first born, but then they rushed him off to the nursery. I thought that was just the normal thing to do, I didn’t know anything was wrong.”
Gary lived for about 12 hours before succumbing to aspiration pneumonia, a condition caused by inflammation in the lungs from inhaling materials such as food or liquids.
“I never got to see him again,” Joy said. “I begged and begged for them to take me to the nursery. There wasn’t anyone who would, so I never saw him again.”
Joy’s husband at that time told her Gary had been buried at a children’s, or kinder, cemetery in Frankfurt, but after doing some research, she discovered there hadn’t been a kinder cemetery in that area in 1952. For decades, she wondered what had become of her son.
After Gary’s death, Joy had four daughters, who grew to have children of their own. One of her granddaughters, Shannon, decided to try and search for information on Gary after her grandmother expressed a wish to find out what happened to her baby.
“Shannon and I are very close,” Joy said. “She did this as a surprise. She had asked questions earlier about Gary, but I just thought she was interested.”
In her quest to find her grandmother’s son, Shannon came in contact with Chief Master Sgt. John Robbins, U.S Air Forces in Europe functional manager and Ramstein Area Chief’s Group lead. Robbins was in charge of the American Kindergraves in Kaiserslautern. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any information about where Gary was laid to rest, but offered to dedicate a symbolic gravestone in the Kindergraves for him.
“When we were unable to find her son’s resting place, I knew it would break her heart,” Robbins said. “We decided to get permission to add a marker to the site.”
On Oct. 15, 2016, Robbins held the dedication ceremony and laid a gravestone in honor of Joy’s lost son.
“I was so happy because it seemed like I was the only one in this world who even acknowledged he had been born,” Joy said. “I was the only one who seemed to care, other than my family. It gives me peace because I know he is not a forgotten little soul.”
Fighting back tears while speaking at the dedication, Robbins felt many emotions.
“[I felt] sorrow for the mother who lost her child so many years ago; fulfilled, knowing Gary has a place where he’ll never be forgotten; and happiness, knowing his mother’s mind is more at ease,” he said.
The Ramstein Area Chiefs’ Group organizes volunteers to clean the Kindergraves once a month. Staff Sgt. Stephanie Rey, 86th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster, led a group of volunteers who cleaned the site before the dedication. All of them stayed afterwards to pay their respects during the ceremony.
Rey, who has children of her own, had a message for Joy.
“The Chiefs’ Group makes sure volunteers are out here to take care of the Kindergraves, but today, this is for you and Gary,” she said. “This is for your family to be at ease that we’re going to take care of him. We are proud to be here and have a very special dedication to Gary.”
Joy was overwhelmed with gratitude to everyone who participated in honoring her son’s memory.
“I can’t express it,” she said. “I am so thankful that you people [did what you did] for my little baby boy. It’s so touching, and I am so grateful to each and every one of you. After all these years it seemed a miracle because it was so long ago. Thank you all so much.”
Gary Currie would be 64 years old if he were alive today. Although he has been gone for so long, members of the Kaiserslautern Military Community will make sure he is never forgotten.