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Bay Pines VA Employee, Gold Star Mother Remembers Son as Memorial Day Approaches

Naval Aircrewman 3rd Class Mohammed “Mo” Haitham was one of three Sailors killed on December 6, 2019, when Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani opened fire on a classroom at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Evelyn Brady, a mother of three and retired U.S. Navy Veteran, had her world turned upside down in 2019. She’s now championing efforts to bring awareness to those, like her, carry the title of Gold Star Family.

“No one wants to be a Gold Star Family,” said a somber Brady. “The title is bittersweet, but we have an obligation to be there for one another and ensure our sons and daughters are remembered for their service.”

On Friday morning, December 6, 2019, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani opened fire on a classroom at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Brady’s son, 19-year-old Naval Aircrewman 3rd Class Mohammed “Mo” Haitham, along with two other sailors, were killed when they ran toward the gunman.

Several weeks later, the Department of Justice and the FBI would officially rule the actions by Alshamrani were an act of terrorism.

“I didn’t look at the news because I didn’t want to see it,” remembered Brady who serves as a program support specialist at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. “I just started praying that he was okay.”

That evening Brady was at home with her youngest son, 17-year-old Irvin, when they received a knock at the door.

“When Irvin called me to the door, I just saw lips moving, but I didn’t hear a word,” admitted Brady. “My world was immediately shattered, and I just broke down.”

Over the years Brady has given several interviews in support of her son, including one on the anniversary of his death last December with 10 Tampa Bay.

Brady acknowledged that the love and support she received from family and friends was overwhelming but even with their help, she found it difficult to turn the corner and deal with the death of her son.

“I was blinded by grief, and I tried to do it alone,” said Brady. “The only people who really know what we’re going through are those experiencing the same thing.”

After connecting with a Gold Star Family who reached out to Brady in 2021, she began attending Gold Star events. It was during one the presentations that Brady received her wake-up call.

“A Gold Star Mother was speaking, and it was like she was talking directly to me,” continued Brady. “It just hit me square in the heart, and I knew this was where I needed to be and what I could do to help myself through this, while honoring Mo.”

Brady officially joined American Gold Star Mother’s, Inc. in 2022. Over the past year, she has worked to advocate for awareness and support to Gold Star families, including informational tables for Veterans at C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center.

“I understand what it’s like to go it alone, and it’s tough,” continued Brady. “I just want every Gold Star Family to know that when you’re ready, there’s a community of amazing people who are going through the same thing, and we’re here and ready to support you.”

When Haitham followed in his mother’s footsteps and joined the Navy, she set up a Facebook account for him titled Mohammed's Navy Journey. She’s kept the page active so others can learn more about her son. NAS Pensacola also established a Building 633 Memorial that honors the sacrifices of Haitham and his fellow Sailors that day.

On Monday, May 29, Brady will be one of several Gold Star Mothers and Families honored as part of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System’s and National Cemetery’s annual Memorial Day observance. After, she will visit her son at Woodlawn Memory Gardens in St. Petersburg.

Brady asks that everyone join her in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. for a minute of silence to honor all who have died in service to our country.  

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