Ultimate sacrifice: Years later, mother copes with son’s death in Iraq

HARLINGEN — Ten years ago, Regina Shipp arrived home from work at Kmart to find her husband standing outside, crying.

Two Army officers and a chaplain were also there. They had come to inform them that their son, 25-year-old Army Spc. Darrell Shipp, had been killed in action in Iraq.

Darrell became the first soldier from Harlingen to die in the war when a roadside bomb blew up near his Humvee in Bagdad on Jan. 25, 2007.

To this day, it’s hard for Regina to describe what she was feeling.

“It’s really, really hard to say,” she said.

“I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself for something like that. I would never, ever have thought that my son would be a casualty of war.”

This Memorial Day, Shipp and every other service member who died in service to their country will be honored as fallen heroes.

Ten years later, her son’s death is still hard on Regina.

“I’ve learned to live the best I can,” she said.

“I’m not happy. No, it’s hard to say. My life is not what it was 10 years ago.

“I smile. It’s a fake smile. I’m not the happy person I was 10 years ago. There’s an empty spot that will never be filled.”

But yet, she goes on, and honors her son’s memory.

As a child, Darrell was a “clown.” “He liked making people laugh,” she said.

He also enjoyed playing the guitar and had his own band called Celebrate Tuesday.

Why that name?

“Because Monday sucks,” Regina said with a chuckle, quoting her son.

The 2000 Harlingen High School graduate wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for a career.

“It was between being a police officer and being a teacher,” his mother said.

But there were two things he was certain of: he wanted to serve his community and to serve his country. That’s why he enlisted.

Darrell was determined to fight in Iraq, even though he was an only son and could have received an exemption.

Regina said they tried to talk him out of going. She explained that his uncle had died six months earlier and Darrell was “the last of my husband’s surname, you know, blood line.”

“I even called his colonel about holding him back. He told me he couldn’t do it; that would have to be Darrell’s decision,” she said.

“But he wanted to go with his unit.”

Regina was at Fort Hood the day her son left for Iraq.

“I saw him off. We watched him drive off in the bus. But to me, he was coming home,” she said.

“I mean, I never dreamed that I would be without my son.”

Darrell last communicated with his family over the computer on Tuesday night, Jan. 23, 2007. He died two days later when the Humvee he was in struck a roadside bomb in Bagdad.

He was due for a two-week leave in March.

Years ago, Regina says, she really didn’t know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

“To me, I always thought they both represented our veterans,” she said.

“I wouldn’t know the true meaning of Memorial Day until all this happened.

“Today, I look at things a lot differently than what I used to see.”

She’s learned not to take our servicemen and women for granted.

“You don’t realize how many families are being affected by these wars,” she said.

“You don’t realize, is that loved one going to be able to come home? Darrell wasn’t.

“You never know when you’re going to hear about another fallen hero.”

– Regina Shipp

You don’t realize, is that loved one going to be able to come home? Darrell wasn’t. You never know when you’re going to hear about

another fallen hero.”