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Gold Star mom honored 
to join veterans' flight

Jeff Miller invited Iraqi War Gold Star Mother Anne Adkins on this weekend's Honor Flight. Jeff Miller invited Iraqi War Gold Star Mother Anne Adkins on this weekend's Honor Flight.

A born soldier, Matthew T. Bolar died doing what a soldier does. Fighting the war. He was killed on May 4, 2007, in Iraq.

There wasn’t much doubt what Matthew would become when he grew up, said his mother, Anne Adkins.
“The first toys he wanted were toy soldiers, and then tanks,” she said. “His favorite channel when he was young was ‘The History Channel.’ It’s like he was born with some sort of interest in defending the country and the history of people who defended the country, plus his grandfathers were both in the war,” serving in World War II.
At the orientation on Saturday for this weekend’s Blue Ridge Honor Flight to Washington, Adkins, who lives in Flat Rock, was the only one wearing a nametag that said Gold Star Mother. When she attended a fundraiser for HonorAir, the Veterans Healing Farm and WNC Military History Museum last spring, she met Jeff Miller, the cofounder of HonorAir. He invited her to go on Saturday’s flight as a guest of the organization.
“I said, ‘I’m a civilian.’ He said, ‘You’re not a civilian. You gave your son to this country.’ Just a wonderful wonderful man,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it, I still can’t.”
After Sept. 11, Bolar, then 19, wanted to join the service. His mom encouraged him to finish college but he was eager to serve. When he turned 21 he joined the Army.
Before he deployed to Iraq the first time, “he wanted to go to New York and the first place he wanted to go was the 09/11 (memorial),” she said. “He went and he stared at the destruction for a long time. And then he turned to me and he hugged me and he said, ‘You know, Mama, there are things worth dying for, my family and my country.’ He died where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do.”
He came home safe from his first deployment and soon was scheduled to go back.
“I said, ‘Why are you going so quickly?’ He said, ‘Well, they’re asking the single guys first. And if I go, then somebody that has a family won’t have to.’”
Deployed with the 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Richardson, Alaska, Cpl. Bolar died when an improvised explosive device blew up near his unit during combat operations in Baghdad. He was 24.
Bolar had once said he hoped one day to shake hands with the commander in chief. His stepfather, Vernon Adkins, told President George W. Bush the story in a letter. About a week later, Bush invited the couple to the White House “so he could shake our hands in lieu of Matthew,” Anne said. “We were the only parents there.”
A couple of years after her only son died, Adkins quit her marketing job at Raycom Media Inc. and plunged fulltime into charity work for veterans. She helps the Veterans Healing Farm in Etowah, among organizations, and had always admired HonorAir, which has flown tens of thousands of World War II veterans to Washington to see the WWII memorial and other memorials.
Blue Ridge Honor Flight has now expanded to include Korean War and Vietnam War veterans. Saturday’s flight is notable because it’s the first flight of mostly Vietnam War veterans. The flight includes 104 Vietnam veterans, many of them serving as guardians for other vets from that war. Experienced teams of paramedics, nurses, physicians, counselors and bus captains support every HonorAir flight.
When the two-hour orientation session for veterans and guardians wrapped up on Saturday morning, Adkins had gotten a glimpse of the military-like precision that goes into an Honor Flight operation.
“Our son’s here today,” she said. “He’s smiling.”
One of the stops on the tour is Arlington National Cemetery, where Matthew is buried.
“When he was happiest in both deployments was when he really wanted to be considered a good soldier, a good, good soldier,” she said. “A couple of his friends said, ‘He was the best soldier I ever served with.’”
What would she want the world to know about Matthew?
“There are so many things,” she said, then paused. “He was the soldier he wanted to be. He was the soldier he worked so hard to be.”