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This Gold Star Mom Went Back to College in Honor of Her Son, & She Just Graduated

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In August of 2012, Phyllis McGeath decided to go back to school and enrolled in the University of Texas at Arlington, determined to complete her college degree. But she wasn’t only doing it for herself—McGeath started taking classes again to honor her son, Philip, a marine who was killed in Afghanistan in January of 2012 at age 25, according to USA Today College.

Like his mother, Philip had never managed to finish his college degree, and though he studied for a while at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, he left to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a Marine. When she returned to school, McGeath was thinking of distraction as much as she was of finishing something both she and her son had started. “My main goal was just to be done,” she told USA Today. “I was 50 years old and already a grandmother, so I’m thinking it’s a little late for a career. I just wanted to be occupied.” She had attended school on and off, but suddenly, finishing with a degree took on new importance.

But during her time at UTA, McGeath discovered that there might just be a career out there for her after all. Her minor in criminal justice put her on a path towards her new goal: a Masters of Social Work, with a particular emphasis on helping others through periods of trauma and grief. During her time in school, McGeath began working with the mothers of other fallen soldiers in a mentorship program of sorts to help them through the process of grieving their children. She travels to see them, keeps in touch and generally makes herself available to them. She feels that this work honors her son's memory.


On Dec. 16, McGeath graduated cum laude with a BA in interdisciplinary studies. She hopes that her return to school can not only give her the tools to help others as a social worker but can also inspire others: “I never thought I was smart enough, but I proved everyone, including myself, wrong. I wanted to show other Gold Star moms that we can do this.”


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