Charles Strange, Freedom is Not Free the Story of His Son Michael Strange
Donnie B.: All right, guys. So I want you to strap it in today. So we're going to get pretty deep and heavy on this one. This is a hell of a story from a hell of a guy and my buddy, Patrick Mudge said, “Donnie, you got to sit down with Charlie and let him tell you his story and everything they're doing.” So just strap it in, guys. It’s going to be a really good episode.
So I'm Donnie Boivin. This is Donnie’s Success Champions. Charlie Strange. Welcome to the show, my friend. Please, tell us your story.
Donnie B.: Hey, before the show starts, I wanted to jump in here and let you guys know that I could not do this show without the support of Point Blank Safety Services. Stacey and Michael McGovern over there have been a huge asset for the show, the Success Champions Family and everything we do and it's because of their support, we're able to bring you such awesome guests and such awesome stories.
So do me a favor. Go check them out. Man, if you're in Texas and you need security officers or you need active-duty police officers on off-duty hours, protecting your sites, construction, security sites, commercial offices, whatever, go check out Point Blank Safety Services. You'll be glad you did.
Now, guys, I'm not kidding. Strap it in today. This is a hell of a story. Here comes Charlie Strange.
Charles S.: Thank you, Don. My name is Charles Strange. I'm the gold star father of Michael Strange. Michael was killed in action in August 6, 2011 along with 38 other men and 29 Americans and Bart, The Warrior Dog. It was the biggest single loss of life in Iraq and Afghan War and it was the biggest loss of life in the history of America. 22 men from DEVGRU, Navy Special Warfare. And it was the worst day of my life.
Michael is my oldest son from Philadelphia. He grew up in Philadelphia. Not too far for your audience. From the Rocky Steps, the famous Rocky Steps. Michael ran the Rocky Steps before he went in.
We're Philly and cheesesteaks and Michael joined the military right out of high school and he took off. He took off from there and went to the Great Lakes. I flew out, seen him graduate boot camp. From there, he went to Pensacola, Florida. And from there, he finished first in his class for cryptology. Michael was a code breaker.
They actually gave Michael the National Intelligence Medal of Valor. Only 17 have ever been given out in the history of America since World War II and the windtalkers. Given that at the NSA with Admiral Alexander under about five floors underground. But he went to Hawaii because he was a crypto and Admiral McRaven was there and he loved it. We flew out to Hawaii, spent 15 days with Michael in Hawaii and he became a surfer and he got really into the intel there and he started getting deployed on different missions.
His buddy, I also don't want to forget about, who died with him, John Douangdara was there. John was the dog handler for the Gold Team DEVGRU. And from Hawaii, he spent a little over three years in Hawaii and then they put him on DEVGRU in Virginia Beach where he had to buy a home and he was with SEAL Team Six, the Gold Squad. His call sign was GY4, Gold Yankee 4 and I said, “Michael! How are you affording a $300,000-house here, Michael? You're 21 years old.” And he loved it and he had to be by the secret base and we still take the train down, drive down.
He drived back to Philly because he missed his family, his friends and I'll tell you what, like yesterday was the day we killed Bin Laden and a lot of memories going by one night and Michael called me before that, before the Bin Laden raid. Two weeks prior, he said, “Dad, everything's getting shut off.”
I'm like, “What?”
He said, “I'm not going to be able to talk to you, Dad.”
And I tried to get information out of him and me and Michael had a little code. Even if it was January, he’d ask me, “Are the Phillies winning?” That means, “Don't ask me any more questions, Michael.” Because they would give them a lie detector test every two or three months.
And the first question on the lie detector test was, when was the last time you lied? So he wouldn't have me ask any more questions.
And he said, “Look, Dad!” He was getting mad. He said, “Dad, look, if something happens, I'm sure you'll hear about it.” And that was the Bin Laden raid and yesterday was, every day is emotional. But he loved what he was doing. He loved protecting and serving his country and his family and August 6th, he came home from the Bin Laden raid in June and it was his birthday, June 6th. It was his birthday and we had a big party, his friend, Kevin and Danny and all of them and the girls. They had about four kegs and a hundred bottles of Jameson's in the pool.
But he was different. He was different after the raid and something was going on. A guy by the name of Joe Biden opened his mouth and after the Bin Laden raid at the Ritz-Carlton in Delaware and told everybody, “SEAL Team Six killed Bin Laden.”
Nobody ever heard of SEAL Team Six before that. And I don't know if that was one of the things that was bothering Michael after the raid. But he was different. He was different in June when he came home. He talked about a will. He never talked about a will before.
A couple of other parents were telling me about the guys in Michael’s crew and they talked about a will and something was going on. Something was going on, Don.
He calls me up. He goes back and he's getting deployed back to Afghanistan. I still have his voice on my cellphone here and he said, “I love you, Dad. I'll see you for Thanksgiving for Eddie and Maggie.” That's my sister. We always do Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, in Fishtown and, “I'll see you for Thanksgiving.”
And I knew something was up, something was going on and he was completely different. He had just told me about the will. He told my sister. He told his buddies, his brother, his sister and he got deployed in the worst day of my life, Don.
August 6, they came knocking on the door. There was like four or five different guys, CAOs, Casualty Assistance guys and they didn't really say much about what happened. They didn't know. Some of the parents said, they ran into a mountain. Some people say, you know. The guys who came to the door, God bless them. They were very nice. They said, “Your son passed along with a tragedy on a helicopter in Afghanistan.”
A couple of the parents I know, when you hear that, that's a piece of your heart.
Donnie B.: Right.
Charles S.: You get rushed to the hospital and I was screaming and yelling and crying and it's like a nightmare. It's a nightmare that actually really don't stop. You learn to walk with a limp the rest of your life, Don. And there was a lot of questions about that August 6, 2011 and the Taliban, actually, after they killed them guys, it was on the internet a half-hour later, bragging.
“We just killed SEAL Team Six.”
How did they know who was in the Chinook? And there's a lot of questions and we did the ceremony in Arlington. 17 to 30 men were in Arlington. In October 2011, we went down to Little Creek and a guy by the name of, Brigadier General Jeffrey Colt did the investigation on what happened and we were in the auditorium, the 60 parents and he was explaining about the pilots. God bless the pilots and some other things. He seemed like, it took a while due to the presentation, but he was only over there for two weeks to do this investigation for 30 men dying and I know and I still don't know today, Don, about the black box which is really orange.
And General Colt put his hands up in the air like theatrically and he said, “A flash flood came and washed it away.”
I said, “Oh, you didn't find it?”
And they said, they never found the black box and there are some people who say, there is no black box in them CH-47. These are some kind of recording device.
Then he said, “An RPG hit the helicopter from 200 yards in the pitch dark and it was a lucky shot.”
So I stood up and the Philadelphia in me came out and I said, “Did you just say lucky shot and all our sons are dead?” And I threw a couple of F-notes out there and a couple of gentleman from the military grabbed me.
Yeah. So it was, you got to be kidding me? And I asked questions. I had some of the other parents asking questions.
When we left there, Donnie, they gave us a folder, a binder and you don't look at it. Just hearing about how your son died. They told me, my son burned to death because of the fire, the fuselage which was all a lie. My son wasn't burned at all. I have pictures of him. Four months, I called Dover and asked for the autopsy and a whistleblower in Dover, God bless his soul, I still don't know who it is, sent me a disk and the paperwork and my beautiful wife, Maryanne, she took the disk.
She said, “Don't look at it. Don't look at it.”
And she looked at it and I said, “Pretty bad?”
And she says, “Well…”
I'm like, “Well, they said he was burned beyond recognition.”
And it was in all the papers. All over the world, 38 skulls, 38 c-spines. No identifiable remains.
So I said, “I want to see. I want to see.” And not that bad and I looked at the pictures of my son and he wasn't burned at all, Donnie. He jumped out of the helicopter or got thrown out of the helicopter. They weren't that high. They weren't that high. I have pictures of the helicopter where they gave us this binder in October after Jeffrey Colt got done doing the thing and there was 25 pages in there.
In the first page, you can look at, as you open it up, you can't read it. It ran out of ink. I know the government's doing bad, but they didn't have no ink. So I called Admiral Sean Pybus. He was Commander-in-Chief and God bless him and I said, “I got a bad copy here, Admiral Pybus. Can I get another copy?”
He said, “Well, Mr. Strange, we had a lot of complaints about that.”
I said, “Okay, good. Send me another one.”
He said, “We can't. We burned it.”
I said, “You burned it? Already?”
But in that packet was a disk and I put the disk in the computer and as you can tell by earlier, I'm not super suave. And there was like a hundred little blocks on this disk and I'm like …
My wife, Maryanne, she says, “Let me look at that.” And she took it somewhere and she printed out 1,364 pages, Don.
Donnie B.: My God.
Charles S.: Which was encrypted with a virus. And the Taliban knew. The Taliban knew. Don, I'm going to read something to you from these 1,364 pages. I wasn't in the military. But in Jeffrey Colt’s investigation, he says, “For the Tangi Valley,” he says, “The next piece of reporting that I have that fits within the timeframe comes from May 11th, 2011.”
And it's late May. There's no date on this and it's going to be, I'm reading it. There was a couple of blank spots. It's very brief. Again, it’s out of the task force and it says something to the fact that over 100 Talibans planned to travel from the Blank Province through the Tangi Valley to possibly shoot down the coalition force aircraft.
They knew. A 100 Talibans were going to the Tangi Valley. I got it right here in front of me, Don. Right in front of me.
Donnie B.: Wow!
Charles S.: So these 1,300 pages, some of the other parents started asking questions and they're like, “How did you get that information? How do you know that?”
And my wife wrote a letter to the gold star parents down in Florida, telling them how to download the disk to get the 1,364 pages. And then our phone got tapped and our computer got tapped and we won the first case in the history of America for the NSA when we went against the NSA and Obama down in Washington, DC.
Judge Leon was our judge. You might remember, he called it, “Aurelian state that we live in.” And so we went to Congress. We went to the Senators. We went to President Obama when he was President.
I met President Obama in Dover and tried over and over to try to get answers. I met President Obama in Dover. He came up to me and he said, “Michael changed the way America lived. Michael could do this and Michael could do that.”
I grabbed President Obama by the shoulders and I sort of shook him and I said, “I don't need to know about my son. I need know what happened.” Then the Secret Service guys grabbed me.
Donnie B.: I see a theme with you, Charlie.
Charles S.: Yeah. And President Obama whispered in my ear and he said three times. He said, “Mr. Strange, I want to look into this very, very, very deep.” And we tried going back and not just me and my wife. We had other gold star parents. We’re just asking questions.
We had a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. We had like 12 of the gold star parents. We had Allen West. We had General Boykin, General [inaudible] and this needs to be a congressional hearing. And we never got anything. We never got any answers and even if nobody's going to take accountability for the biggest loss of life and my son getting killed, just don't let it happen to someone else's son.
Who put 38 men in a Chinook helicopter? 8 of the Afghans, Don, right before they took off, got off and no one's got on. Their names were never on the manifest.
I'm like, and they told us this and then I think they wanted to not tell us that but, who were they? Who were they? They told us in Dover. They brought the Afghan bodies back to Dover and they had their flag over the coffins.
My daughter said, “What's this?”
I said, “That's the Afghans.”
She said, “What the eff are they doing here?”
That was our question. And they had to call the families from the Afghans and tell them they had the wrong people. They didn't know who they were. You don't know who they are getting on the helicopter? Their names’ not on the manifest? Who okayed all this?
And then it was supposed to be a rescue mission for the Rangers and there was no … the Rangers, I’ve talked to personally, who were coming out said, “We didn’t need a QRF. We didn't need a Quick Reaction Force.” They had eight of the Talibans locked up. It's in the 1,300 pages. I got their names. I got their names.
And then they said, “Well, we were after Qari Tahir.”
Qari Tahir is a high-level guy. He was a big target. Qari Tahir, in the 1,300 pages, knew. Knew. He moved from village to village. Somebody was giving him all the information.
Here you go, Hamad, I can't talk. I don't know these Middle Easterners. Harad, Hamad, Hamaz, Zaha, Guli, Nabi, Al-Qazar. The raid in Khawatir Village was targeting Qari Tahir, Ismael, Qali, Tahir had been located in another village during the raid, at the house of Habibur Rahim in the [inaudible].
Everything's written out here, Don. And I can't get no answers on who killed my son? Who made the call? It's crazy.
So we went through all kinds of stuff.
Donnie B.: Here's the crazy thing, Charlie, is one, God loved you, and I mean this wholeheartedly. I mean, I'm sorry for the loss of your son. It’s tragic. It sucks. No parent needs to go through that, right?
But God loved you, man, because somebody's going to pick the fight, right? When something goes like this and I love your Philly freaking attitude, your vibe for you. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes in that room. But I love the way you've handled yourself all the way through this and fucking kudos for just picking the fight because I mean, I'm hearing your side of it. So I've got to go with what I'm hearing. And from what I'm hearing, man, shit, why the hell isn't there a further investigation? Why isn't there more people asking questions?
And I get it, man. Some of the parents that have tragically lost their kids in this, they're like, “Okay. We just want to move on and get past it.” But I'm thinking, man, if I'm in your shoes, I'm still asking fucking questions. I want somebody's ass to fry because they made a bad call or they're a traitor to the freaking country. One of the two.
Why the cover-up? And what dumbass put the disk in the freaking binder to you guys?
Charles S.: Right.
Donnie B.: Somebody's ass should get fired just for that stupid mistake on that side of things. So wow. What a shitty thing to go through, man. My heart hurts for that kind of stuff but fucking kudos for your boy for stepping up and doing what not many have the courage to do and fucking defending our country, man.
Being a veteran myself, that dude is just freaking awesome. That's just awesome.
So now, you guys are doing a lot of cool things for gold star families and you guys are holding events and bringing these families together and helping them get through some of these tough times they’re going through.
Tell us a little bit about your foundation, your organization and what you guys are doing.
Charles S.: Well, there's a lot of support at the funeral and after the funeral, everybody goes back to work. Everybody goes on vacation. Everybody is still going on. I'd be looking out my window saying, “My son died and everybody is still moving on.” And I was, the five stages of grief. Like I didn't know nothing about the five stages of grief and the first one is denial.
No way. He was just sitting on my couch. We were just at a party and the second stage is anger. I was shopping in a food market and some guy had a towel around his head and he had to call the police on me for that one.
My wife was at my back. Somebody was going to get it, Donnie. You know what I mean?
The third one is bargain. And God don't bargain. And the fourth one they say is depression. I don't like to use that word. I think it's the Grim Reaper and the fifth one is acceptance.
But like any other ones, what I learned is, with the loss of a son or a daughter or burying a child, it don't stop. It just keeps coming. I buried my father. I buried my cousin. I buried good friends. Not even in the same circle is burying a child and I ran into another gold star father named, Grant Smith. His son Tristan Smith was killed in an IED from Philadelphia three years prior.
So I got in touch with this guy and we met for coffee and he started crying and he was angry and I felt good, Don. I was like, “This guy's just like me. We’re both fucked up. All right!”
And I came home. I told my wife. I said, “We should bring more parents together.”
And my wife, she started reaching out to some gold star parents and we did it. I said, “Let do …” in Philadelphia, we call it Beef and Beer and some guy named Drago, a Navy SEAL named Drago came along and him and his wife, great wife, Rachel and their two kids came down and we had an Irish band, of course, Blackthorne, donated their time and we raised some money and we brought like 20 gold star parents in for a weekend and we had a grief counselor there and we get the parents to talk.
I want to hear from the other dads and moms. How do you get through the birthday? What are you doing in the holiday? How do you get through every day? And from there, the other gold star parents started telling other gold star parents.
“When are you doing that again? Are you doing that again?”
And I was like, “Well, okay. We'll do another one.” And we went to Wildwood, New Jersey and we did Thursday to Sunday and we brought some gold star parents from Michigan, Heath Robinson’s dad, he was on Team 6, Heath was a sharpshooter and we brought Debbie Anne who lost her son and they never seen the ocean. They never seen the ocean.
So it was really cool and we did a lot of healing in Saturday night, whatever area we’re in, we ask the VFW or American Legion or [inaudible] Club, the hostess for dinner. We get the motorcycles, the cops, the firemen involved and my wife makes these beautiful reefs, biodegradable reefs and we go to the ocean and we say our sons’ names and we say a few prayers and we throw them, knowing that we'll see our sons again on the other side.
We went to Tucson, Arizona to this guy Mike and Bonnie Quinn's house and we had a beautiful hotel out there and we had gold stars. We had Bob Huff. His daughter was Samantha Huff, the first girl killed in Iraq. My man, Bob and we had about 38 gold star parents out there.
So the healing begins in meeting these other families and just to know what you're walking into, knowing you're not alone because a lot of the gold star parents go, “Don, nobody cares if my son died.”
I said, “There is people that care, man. There is people that care.”
I brought my buddy in, Kali Thomason. He's from Louisiana, Shreveport, Louisiana and you think I got an accent. I live about 60 miles from them duck boys. That's where I live at.
“You better look for the gators, Charlie.”
You can look Kali up on Facebook. He was putting up on Facebook, “My son died because of the rules of engagement.” His son was, they had to pull over to the side of the road. He was in the middle with some brass. And the van coming down since they pulled over drove right into the middle loaded with bombs and killed his son, Josh.
But yeah. Meeting Kali and we brought Kali down to Ocean City, Maryland in the Royal Princess Hotel. We had 36 gold star parents and I tell you what, they put the fire engine trucks. They put it in the newspaper. Me and my wife go wherever we're going to go for the weekend retreat with the gold star families, we go down like a month early to let the VFW Post know, the police and firemen and they put it in the newspaper.
There was people out in the street, Don with the flags. They brought the bugler. Each city that we've been to really rolls out the red carpet. But we're a small foundation. We need help. MichaelStrangeFoundation.org.
Donnie B.: Well, hold on. Let me jump in here just one second, Charlie. A couple of things. One, you guys are close because obviously, it's your kids, right? I mean, that's not going to be something that's ever going to be [inaudible] place in your life, right? So it's really close to you.
But I want to say it for all of us that aren't gold star families, man. It's not that we're not thinking about it. We're just not as close to it as you guys are.
I mean, you guys are there every day. But I want you to also recognize that everywhere you've been, look at the good people that show up to support.
I mean, at the end of the day, man, they're special people in this world. And unfortunately, society as it is, as a whole, likes to just paint a bad fucking picture on everything.
So if you turn on the false shitty-ass news and all the other BS out there, all that you're going to see is the negative stuff. But for all of your friends that you guys are doing these amazing things for, just remember, it's not that we’re not thinking about it. It's just, we're not as close to it as you guys are. And we show up. Because there's still some of us that that sacrifice means a fuck ton to a lot of us. So I just wanted to get that out.
Now, tell us about your damn foundation.
Charles S.: Thank you, Donnie. Thank you. And that means a lot, man. That means a lot. Thank you.
Donnie B.: You get me all freaking choked up here, Charlie.
Charles S.: I make you cry. I do. My wife's over here on the side crying and tearing up. A piece of my heart's missing now, Don and meeting these other gold stars, we got a big event coming up. We got Drago coming back, November 2nd with a guy by the name of Rob O'Neill who’s coming back from his second time. One of Michael’s buddies. A lot of you guys’ buddies and we're teaming up with another foundation called Operation First Response, Peggy Baker and Nick Constantino’s. And we're doing it, November 2nd.
I know you guys don't like to come to the East Coast over here, Donnie.
Donnie B.: That’s cold-ass weather in November, dude. You’re crazy as hell.
Charles S.: We’ll get you a Philly cheesesteak at [inaudible].
Donnie B.: That’s awesome.
Charles S.: In case you do, Nikki and Joey bag of doughnuts and Rocco and all the guys. Yeah. We’ll take care of you. But November 2nd, seriously, Pat Mudge is speaking, one of Michael's close friends.
Donnie B.: Just really quick, Charlie, for the ones that have listened to this podcast all the way through, if you guys go back before, I think, Episode 50, someone there, you'll hear Patrick Mudge’s story, man. And let me tell you, Patrick Mudge is the only interview I've ever done where I think I said two words through the whole thing, man.
When that dude tells his story, holy fuck. That dude went through some shit. So great dude, great story. So to see him speak in person will be huge.
Charles S.: Pat spoke at our little dinner event last year when he came down. He was close with Michael.
It's hard, man. And you got to ask God for help. A guy opened up the Bible to me a little bit about Jesus and He died on the cross for us and His only Son and so we meet new veterans and asking God for help and we meet these other great gold star parents from all over the country, Don.
We’ve had 250 gold star parents. We’ve done weekends in Pennsylvania, Jersey, Ocean City, Maryland, Tucson, Longmont, Colorado, Washington, DC, Lenox, Massachusetts and we need help with the airfare. We need help with the hotels because the parents already paid the ultimate price, right? I don't like saying that. Ultimate sacrifice. I don't like that shit. It was no sacrifice. My son had a gun in his hand when he died, you know what I mean?
And that fucks with me too. He was alive for 15 minutes and nobody came to help him in my nightmares.
Donnie B.: Here's the thing, man, is you guys are doing a freaking awesome thing, right? It's a hell of a thing you guys are doing and through your story, what people are able to feel, see and embrace is, this is a tough fucking thing and I personally can't relate to any of it. I've never lost anybody that close to me, right?
But I will tell you, the fucking strength that you guys have to bring these families in across the world, across the US and be able to put them in one place, one room so you all can freaking go through this shit together and then you realize, you're not fucking alone is huge, is really, really, really huge and fucking kudos.
I mean, there's always somebody who picks up the torch and says, “Come sit by my fire,” and you guys are doing it.
Charles S.: Thanks, Don.
Donnie B.: Yeah. Really freaking awesome.
Charles S.: Thank you. Yeah. It helps. It helps meeting these gold stars. My friend, Jeannie Cathcart, his son was Michael Cathcart and all over, all over and we did one up in Lenox, Massachusetts, the gold star families with Derek Benson's dad there, Fred and a couple of the families from Extortion 17 came. Doug Hamburger and his son, Patrick was on there, out of Nebraska, full-time National Guard.
And I'll tell you what, the one up in Lenox, Massachusetts, it's called Pug’s Farm. The guy bought a Chinook helicopter, Don. He bought a Chinook helicopter and has a memorial site. It’s called Pug’s Farm.
If you're ever up in Lenox, Massachusetts, it's free. It's a beautiful memorial site. A guy by the name of E.L. Shapiro. Just amazing site.
So we did a weekend up there with them. That was, going inside the Chinook, seeing the pictures but it's healing. Something else that’s healing too.
You learn to walk with a limp every day and some days are harder than others. Sometimes, that Grim Reaper comes in on you and then it's good to … through the foundation, I met Mike Anderson. His son was a Marine. Fast-track, killed in Fallujah. His son got hurt. He was out, came back and then got shot right through the heart. Mike Anderson, good friend of mine. And meeting Michael and his daughter, Ally.
Sometimes, we bring the siblings in if they're over 18 and they asked me to do the siblings and as you can tell, I'm not a doctor. I do have a PhD though, Donnie. Plumbing, heating and drainage.
See, we learned to laugh again, bro. We learned to laugh again.
Donnie B.: I get that, Charlie. I come from a blue-collar lifestyle. So I get that, man. That's awesome.
Charles S.: Absolutely. I was in the laborers’ union in Philly. So that's the Michael Strange Foundation. You can see videos on Michael Strange Facebook. You'll see all the videos, all the gold star parents, different events. But November 2nd is our big dinner. Everybody's welcome. We’ll have it up on the website in about two months so you can buy tickets online. We’ll have auctioneer. Pat Mudge is going to battle for us, get some stuff donated. We need some donations for the auction.
Rob O’Neill is coming in to speak. He's going to be there. Drago, Pat, a couple of veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq through Operation First Response who will talk for a few minutes to tell their stories, how Operation First Response helps them and then of course, I have some gold stars there from all over the country just to do some healing and show people that freedom is not free, babe. Freedom is not free.
9/11, man, Boston Bombing, San Bernardino and I know Michael did some things in this country to stop certain things that even went on here and you never hear about it and that's what I love about everybody who serves in the military. To sign that line and to protect us for our freedoms, man. For our freedoms. We live in the greatest country in the world.
Donnie B.: That's it. That's it, man. That's it.
Charles S.: President Trump had me down to the White House. He was great. He asked me to bring ten gold stars down there. It was a trip. They even put it in the newspaper in Philadelphia.
“Family and Fawn Meets the Trumpster.” They put the Trumpster up. They had to throw a little shot in. But he was good. I had 15 minutes alone with him. Me and my wife. Him and the First Lady.
He opened up an investigation about Extortion 17. I gave him some of them 1,300 pages. He actually read them in front of me.
I said, “President Trump, my son got killed in a 1960-helicopter, man, with 30 other guys.”
He goes, “You see what I did about that? I just signed a bill. $500 million gives them new damn helicopters for them.”
Then I said to him, I said, “When you drop that mother bomb over there,” I said, “Next time you call Charlie Strange from Philadelphia and drop like eight or nine on them motherfuckers. Kill them all. Kill all them fucking people.”
He goes, “Yo, yo, yo.”
I said, “Yo, yo, yo?” I said, “Your son is still here. My son's not.”
Then he gave me a hug and then he invited me back for Christmas dinner, Don. Yeah. That was cool.
Donnie B.: So tell the family. You're not going to be home for Christmas. You're going to be chilling in the White House.
Charles S.: We were in the gold room, the green room, the red room. They were feeding us all kinds of stuff. They did a beautiful tribute to the men and the gold star families. The First Lady, she was elegant.
She said, “I don't know what you're going through. I can't understand what you're going through. I can't imagine.” She read a beautiful poem. General Kelly was there. He lost his son.
And that's what the gold stars. You get a gold star pin and a folded flag. And we've had some of the parents, some of the mothers come to our weekend and they’re wearing their gold star pin now and another lady says to her, “Man, I like that pin. How do I get one of that?”
People don't know what a gold star is and you don't want that gold star pin. It’s the pin that nobody wants but I wear it with honor. My son wore his uniform with honor and what he did to protect and serve for our freedoms and he loved what he did.
You hear all kinds of things on our weekends. The one guy said, “I know what you're going through.” His neighbor told him, “I know what you're going through. I had my dog for 12 years.”
“You lost your dog? I lost my son. I don’t think you know.”
We understand. You know what I mean? Just don't say something like that to me the first year it happened.
Donnie B.: Right?
Charles S.: Michael Strange Foundation.
Donnie B.: That's awesome, brother. Charlie, I got to tell you, I'm honored to have you come on here and share your story. I mean, because you're right. There's a lot of people that don't understand what the gold star families are. I mean, it's thrown around every once in a while but not a lot of people fully understand what it means.
So thank you for coming in and really sharing Michael’s and your story, your family’s story. Thank you for everything you're doing. It means a ton and I just have so much respect for what you guys are doing.
You're doing so much for other families going through it and thanks for being the light for those people. That's a really truly beautiful thing.
How do people get in touch with you guys? So what's the website? What's the best way for them to reach out to donate, to get help if they're a gold star family member that maybe don't know about you guys, those type of things, how do people get in touch with you guys?
Charles S.: The best way for the gold stars is Michael Strange Facebook. Message me, Charles Strange Facebook. Message me. Our PO Box is Michael Strange Foundation. PO Box 6038, Philadelphia, PA 19114. Philadelphia, PA 19114. The PO Box is 6038, Michael Strange Foundation.
We got PayPal. We got PayPal on MichaelStrangeFoundation.org. You see some t-shirts for sale. You'll see the PayPal in there. We could really use your help. We could really use your support.
We're a 501(c)(3). All the money goes to paying for the hotel, the food, the plane tickets and we give the parents a little present at the end, a little gold star bag and it pays for the lodging and that's what we need help for. We need to raise money for these gold star families. Because it's not like after you burry a child, you wake up and go back to work in two weeks or three weeks.
I did. I went back to work like two months later, but I couldn't stay for a full week. I go every day but I'll break down and the Grim Reaper ain't no joke and then you wipe yourself off, you drink a bottle of water, you smoke a cigarette, you wash your face, you go back out, you're good for another hour and then bam!
It's like, “Damn. My son, you got to be kidding. I got to go to a cemetery to see my son? Who the fuck came up with this? Who the fuck put all these guys in a helicopter?” But the only thing for me is meeting these gold star parents and learning what you're walking into, knowing that you're not alone and it is God working through me. Believe me.
That’s the other thing. I give God credit for everything. If it was up to me, I'd be smoking some left-handed cigarettes and drinking, but I don't do that.
I probably shouldn’t have said that.
Donnie B.: You’re fine. We live in a new time, Charlie. Everybody smokes.
Charles S.: I know it is God working through me and meeting that other gold star to start this off and my wife, God bless her, she was Michael’s stepmom and she's like my rock and my boulder. And like you just said, a guy named Shawn Greener from Delaware, Navy veteran, he did some of our counseling. We had another guy from Wildwood. We're looking for a grief counselor actually, Donnie. If anybody … I just interviewed a gentleman yesterday. He's becoming a doctor. He works at a couple of VA’s. He's going to get back to me.
If anybody wants to reach out that does grief counseling, we could use some support on that too. My friend in Delaware is not doing too good. He's going through some problems. But yeah. We need a grief counselor. I got two on the line but they’re not sure.
We're having an event, June 21st in Jersey, Edison, New Jersey. We’re having a weekend for gold stars we have gotten from Florida, Chicago, coming from all over. So we could use your support.
MichaelStrangeFoundation.org. We have PayPal. You can order some shirts and also, our PO Box is on the foundation page.
Donnie B.: Awesome. Awesome. Charlie, thanks so much for doing this. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I really appreciate it.
Now, here's how I like to wrap up every show. And I do stump some people with this, Charlie. So stand by for that.
If you were going to leave the Champions who listen to this show, 91 countries that tune in every day to hear the stories of the Champions that have been through heaven and hell in their life to figure out what they're going to do and where they're going, if you were going to leave them with a quote, a phrase, a saying, a mantra, something they can take with them on their journey, especially when they're stacked up against it, what's that quote or phrase you would say, “Remember this…”?
Charles S.: My one phrase I would say would be, “Easy does it, but do it. Remember the fallen and freedom is not free.”
Donnie B.: That's awesome, Charlie. Just freaking beautiful, my friend. Thanks so much for doing this. Keep rocking. Keep being the torch for those gold family members and we're fixing to show up to support you, brother. Appreciate you.
Charles S.: Thank you so much, Don. Thank you so much for your service. And thanks for helping us.
Donnie B.: Absolutely.
Charles S.: God bless, brother.
Donnie B.: Man, if that story didn't hit you, wow. Charles, I got to say bud, I'm really grateful for your time coming and sharing your story on the show and everything you guys are doing. If you guys would do me an honor, take a minute and just think about the guys who gave it all so we could enjoy the freedoms that we have. Think about all the guys that are deployed overseas now protecting our freedoms and by God, thank a veteran when you see them. They've been through hell in their own form or fashion and those kind words go quite a long ways and for the veterans, when somebody thanks you, take that, receive that and own that for me, because you deserve it.
I know I struggled the longest time when people said, “Thank you for your service.” I found a great phrase that allowed me to continue to embrace it because it's not about them thanking me. It's about how it makes them feel that they can do something for us. So anytime they thank you, just turn around, look at them and say, “It was my honor.” Embrace that.
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We are creating Success Champions on a daily basis and let me tell you, you want to come hang out because as I am a Success Champion, so are you.
Just go to Facebook, type in ‘Success Champions’, click on groups and we'll see you there.