Lewis Griswold

Lewis Griswold: Theft of Visalia mother’s gold star jacket goes viral

Rosalia Verbeek of Visalia, whose son died in the war in Afghanistan, posted a heartfelt message on her Facebook page last week that generated 3,000 “shares” within a day.

She wasn’t expecting that kind of response.

“My phone just started beeping,” she said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Now Verbeek is hoping that just one of those interested people can help get her gold star mother’s jacket returned. And the bracelets. Especially the bracelets.

Four years ago, her son Lance Cpl. Jared C. Verbeek, 22, of Visalia, was killed while on combat patrol.

She wrote on her Facebook page that commemorative bracelets with her son’s name had been stolen out of her car, along with her gold star mother’s jacket.

A gold star mother has lost a son or daughter in war.

“I was so upset,” she said. “I could have cared less about everything else, but why would they take the bracelets? It makes me so sad.”

Her Facebook post went viral after Fox News reported the theft.

She discovered the theft the day after Memorial Day. Her car was parked in the driveway in front of her home, and she came out to find the front door wide open.

She reported the theft to police and asks that anyone who finds the jacket or bracelets to please call Visalia police.

Whoever took the treasures can leave them on her front porch, no questions asked, she said.

The zip-up jacket was a gift from her husband, Travis Verbeek, Jared’s father. Lettering on the front states, “The Gold Star Mother of a United States Marine.”

Jared Verbeek is also survived by his wife Vanessa and their son Jacob, 5, who goes with his grandparents about once a month to the grave at Visalia District Cemetery and helps clean it.

Rosalia said she goes twice a day to make sure its tidy and to replace the flags if someone has taken them.

She wears one of her son’s dog tags — “I have never taken it off,” she said — and a Marine T-shirt given to her by Jared that has on the back “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

Jared died June 21, 2011.

After the funeral, a fearless blue jay unexpectedly arrived outside his parent’s home. The bird would come remarkably close to people and perch on the heads or arms of family members — but only family members.

It was easy to draw a conclusion, Rosalia said: “I believe that’s a sign from God letting us know that Jared is well.”

Related stories from Fresno Bee