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Obama takes time for grieving soldier on leave

By Staff | Feb 11, 2009

Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Murray came home on combat leave to find his mother on life support. Karin Murray died Sunday from kidney failure, and her son was threatened with going AWOL if he stayed for the funeral and to settle his mother’s affairs.
Things were indeed looking grim for Murray as his 15-day leave was coming to a close. Then Operation Open Arms got involved, and Tuesday afternoon, Murray shook hands with President Barack Obama.
“He’s down to earth and easy to talk to,” Murray said of meeting the president. “(Though) everything he does is so huge, he’s just so easy to talk to.”
It was an emotional whirlwind for Murray. In the midst of trying to come to terms with his mother’s passing, Operation Open Arms stepped in to help organize and pull together the necessary steps of Karin’s funeral service and viewing.
With the help of U.S. Rep. Connie Mack and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Murray’s leave was extended to bereavement leave, and he was able to score his dress blues to wear at his mother’s funeral.
He also got the chance to meet the president during Obama’s visit to Fort Myers, thanks to Operation Open Arms.
Murray has much in common with the 43rd president. Like Obama, Murray was raised by a single mother.
He said Obama was almost like a “father figure” during the time they spent getting to know one another, as the president shared his grief with the 20-year-old soldier.
“He had heard about my mother, and he said it was a rough thing I had to go through, but I would get through it,” Murray recalled. “It makes me feel a lot better knowing the president cares about the little people.”
Capt. John “Giddy Up” Bunch, founder and chief officer of Operation Open Arms, was equally amazed with the time and care Obama shared with Murray. He called the event “amazing,” and said he would do anything to help U.S. troops in their times of need, even delicate moments like the passing of loved ones.
Bunch was instrumental in helping Murray meet Obama. It also was the first time Operation Open Arms has assisted with funeral arrangements.
“It was unprecedented,” Bunch said. “I can’t imagine any president doing for anybody what he (Obama) did for this kid today.”
Born and raised in Collier County, Murray plans on returning to Southwest Florida after his tenure in the Marines.
Murray now is in the process of putting his mother’s affairs in order. He was close to his mother, and said her passing has been a “very hard thing” to get through.
While Murray is unsure if he will serve another tour in Iraq, he is a bit weary of everything that follows his mother’s funeral services.
“I have to take care of everything,” he said. “I’m the only one to take care of the condo, the medical bills, everything.”
Karin Murray’s viewing is from 6-8 p.m. today at Fuller Funeral Home, 1625 Pine Ridge Road, Naples.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday. Burial service takes place about noon Thursday at Palm Royale Cemetery, 6780 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples.
To make a financial donation to assist with the funeral services, contact the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce at 283-0888 or e-mail Operation Open Arms at jbunchie@aol.com.

Obama takes time for grieving soldier on leave

By Staff | Feb 11, 2009

Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Murray came home on combat leave to find his mother on life support. Karin Murray died Sunday from kidney failure, and her son was threatened with going AWOL if he stayed for the funeral and to settle his mother’s affairs.

Things were indeed looking grim for Murray as his 15-day leave was coming to a close. Then Operation Open Arms got involved, and Tuesday afternoon, Murray shook hands with President Barack Obama.

“He’s down to earth and easy to talk to,” Murray said of meeting the president. “(Though) everything he does is so huge, he’s just so easy to talk to.”

It was an emotional whirlwind for Murray. In the midst of trying to come to terms with his mother’s passing, Operation Open Arms stepped in to help organize and pull together the necessary steps of Karin’s funeral service and viewing.

With the help of U.S. Rep. Connie Mack and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Murray’s leave was extended to bereavement leave, and he was able to score his dress blues to wear at his mother’s funeral.

He also got the chance to meet the president during Obama’s visit to Fort Myers, thanks to Operation Open Arms.

Murray has much in common with the 43rd president. Like Obama, Murray was raised by a single mother.

He said Obama was almost like a “father figure” during the time they spent getting to know one another, as the president shared his grief with the 20-year-old soldier.

“He had heard about my mother, and he said it was a rough thing I had to go through, but I would get through it,” Murray recalled. “It makes me feel a lot better knowing the president cares about the little people.”

Capt. John “Giddy Up” Bunch, founder and chief officer of Operation Open Arms, was equally amazed with the time and care Obama shared with Murray. He called the event “amazing,” and said he would do anything to help U.S. troops in their times of need, even delicate moments like the passing of loved ones.

Bunch was instrumental in helping Murray meet Obama. It also was the first time Operation Open Arms has assisted with funeral arrangements.

“It was unprecedented,” Bunch said. “I can’t imagine any president doing for anybody what he (Obama) did for this kid today.”

Born and raised in Collier County, Murray plans on returning to Southwest Florida after his tenure in the Marines.

Murray now is in the process of putting his mother’s affairs in order. He was close to his mother, and said her passing has been a “very hard thing” to get through.

While Murray is unsure if he will serve another tour in Iraq, he is a bit weary of everything that follows his mother’s funeral services.

“I have to take care of everything,” he said. “I’m the only one to take care of the condo, the medical bills, everything.”

Karin Murray’s viewing is from 6-8 p.m. today at Fuller Funeral Home, 1625 Pine Ridge Road, Naples.

A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday. Burial service takes place about noon Thursday at Palm Royale Cemetery, 6780 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples.

To make a financial donation to assist with the funeral services, contact the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce at 283-0888 or e-mail Operation Open Arms at jbunchie@aol.com.