Military Veteran and Gold Star Mom Becomes Advocate for Veterans

Following in the footsteps of her father and siblings, Leesa Philippon joined the U.S. Army in 1979 as a French Language interpreter. 

While she didn’t end up in war, she was stationed in Fort Bragg North Carolina where she met her husband, Ray, a sergeant in the Army. They married, moved to West Hartford and began a family. 

Larry, their oldest son, followed in the family’s military tradition. 

“Larry was hilarious,” Leesa said. “He was tall. He was 6’4. He was a hockey goalie.” 

She said Larry decided to join the Marines on September 11, 2001. 

“They were sitting there in front of the TV; they couldn’t believe what was going on. A seed was planted,” she said. 

Three and a half years later, Leesa got the message no mother wants to hear. Larry was killed in action while serving in Iraq. 

“May 8, 2005, it was Mother’s Day,” Leesa said. “It was mine and my husband’s anniversary. I think of how Larry would want us handle this and he would want us to stay strong.” 

It wasn’t long before Leesa’s other son, Bryan, decided that he wanted to serve. 

“We tried to hold him off,” Leesa said. “He came to us one day and said, ‘I’m losing the memory of my brother. If I become a Marine, I will be his Marine brother.’ So at that point, we had to give him our blessing.”’ 

Leesa Philippon is now an advocate for veterans their families. She spoke at a Veterans Day Observance and Awards Ceremony at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford. 

“For our troops and all of our population, we need to address all forms of mental health and strive to remove the stigmas that stifle the quality of life,” Leesa said. 

Although she, her husband and son are no longer active military, Leesa continues to serve. She said she will serve until she meets her son Larry once again. 

“I will hug him and thank him for being able to speak for those men and women who he’s served with because he just adored them and loved them and the feeling is mutual — they loved him,” Leesa said.

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