Lori Deysie

Lori Deysie poses in front of a Miss America sign.

A Lake Havasu City Gold Star mother was given her own moment to shine during last week’s Miss America competition.

Lori Deysie, a former Parker resident, was one of 10 Gold Star mothers from across the country invited to attend the beauty pageant, participating in various events throughout the week in Atlantic City, New Jersey and then inducted as Honorary Miss America on stage Sunday during the competition’s pre-show.

Lori, who is the area’s first resident and second Arizonan to be honored at the competition, is the mother of Army Private First Class Ara Tyler Deysie, who was killed May 9, 2008 while serving in Afghanistan. The 18-year-old member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes had succumbed to wounds sustained when his unit came under rocket-propelled grenade fire. His story was shared during Lori’s induction ceremony.

“It was just overwhelming, I don’t have words, I’m just still trying to process everything,” said Lori, who returned from her trip late Monday night. “I ended up crying (on stage)…but when we were having a discussion, with the other Gold Star moms, that’s how we all feel at times, just broken hearted…knowing that your child went and signed that blank check with all these other guys to serve in a brotherhood and sisterhood and they lost their lives, they gave their all for our freedom of just being able to walk down the street and go into a restaurant.”

For ten years, Project Gratitude has organized the program, partnering with nonprofit Got Your Back Network and other sponsors and eventually earning a spot in the Miss America competition’s pre-show. Project Gratitude was co-founded by another former Parker resident, and 1980 Miss Parker, Darci Hansen to show support for the military.

“My dad served in the military and I grew up very patriotic, my family, my dad taught us and the school did too to honor the flag and the military,” she said, adding that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 solidified that support. “I sat there and watched all the video and the live feed that was going on and that was the first time, for me, in my lifetime that our country was attacked on our soil and my love for our military and first responders grew profoundly on that day…and since then I have really tried to even elevate my own awareness of our military and what they go through; we forget and that’s why Project Gratitude is important because we forget as we go throughout our daily lives that our freedom comes at an extremely high price and it’s not free.”

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