Arizona military wife lays husband to rest after 10 years
PHOENIX — An Arizona military wife whose life was altered by tragedy when she lost her husband to combat got the opportunity to lay her husband to rest this month.
Ginger Gilbert Ravella was 36-years-old, raising five young children, when military officials came to her Litchfield Park home to tell her that her husband, Air Force Major Troy Gilbert, was dead.
“They came to tell me that Troy and his F-16 had gone down west of Baghdad in a combat mission where he saved 22 special operators, but lost his life,” she said.
To add to the tragedy, Gilbert Ravella said insurgents had taken her husband’s body. Even though his fellow soldiers searched for years, they were unsuccessful — until recently.
Ten years after his death, Gilbert’s remains were located — by the special operations unit that he saved — and returned to his widow in October. He was buried last week at Arlington National Cemetery.
“My children are now 19, 16, 13, and the twins are 10,” she said. “They’re old enough to fully comprehend the loss but also just the heroism of their father.”
At the 6th Annual Patriot All-American Invitational Golf Tournament on Tuesday in Litchfield Park, Gilbert Ravella told the 84 collegiate golfers that the fallen soldiers they’re playing for came from real families.
“I just wanted them to be reminded of the real meaning of who they’re playing for and appreciate their freedoms because they live in the greatest country in the world and it came at high price for so many of us,” she said.
Gilbert Ravella said her faith in God has helped her cope with her grief.
“I also put a lot of my energies toward helping other families,” she said. “I felt that that was important. I didn’t want to waste all the pain that we had gone through. I had been so blessed by help that I wanted to do that for others.”
Her energy goes into the Folds of Honor Foundation, a non-profit that raises money for families of wounded and fallen soldiers to help them get an education.
“My kids all received scholarships for their education,” she said. “I have one in college and four in private school that I would not be able to afford without the help.
“More than anything, it’s a thank you note, I believe, from the American people to our family for the sacrifice and for the loss,” she said. “My kids know that their education is being provided by those who appreciate their freedom.”