War Widow Finds Comfort Helping Others

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Chelle Pokorney will never forget the shock and pain of learning that her "gentle giant," the strapping 6-foot-6 Marine who kept her fears at bay and made the world bright, would not be coming back.

1st Lt. Fred Pokorney Jr., who called Tonopah home, was killed March 23, three days after the United States invaded Iraq.

Four soldiers with ties to Nevada have died in the war.

Pokorney, 31, and former Marine Lance Cpl. Donald "John" Cline, 21, of Sparks, died the same day during early fighting near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

Army Capt. Josh Byers, 29, a West Point graduate who went to Reed High School in Sparks, was killed July 23 when his convoy was ambushed near Ramadi.

Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Cameron Sarno, 43, of Las Vegas, died Sept. 1 when a military vehicle crashed into his parked tractor-trailer while he was changing a flat tire in Kuwait City.

The news of death always comes hard, Chelle Pokorney said.

"It's a horrible time. Nobody can prepare for that," she said.

A year later, she still aches. Tears still flow, sometimes unexpectedly, triggered by the simplest of things.

"I'm in a lot of pain. This is not easy," she said.

But Pokorney is finding comfort in the couple's 3-year-old daughter, Taylor, and helping others whose loved ones in the military service were killed.

Pokorney, 33, is director of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund in New York City, a nonprofit program that provides financial assistance to spouses and children of military personnel lost in action.

"They reached out to me at a time when I was in agony," Pokorney, 33, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday.

Now she is reaching out to others by sharing her own memories, painful and joyful, to help others who are grieving.

Since the start of hostilities last year 569 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, according to latest Defense Department figures.

The Fallen Heroes Fund is a program of the Intrepid Foundation, operator of the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum in New York City.

"The fund offers unrestricted contributions of $10,000 to each family," Foundation President Bill White writes on Intrepid's Web site. Since 2000, it has awarded more than $4.5 million.

Pokorney said she doesn't dwell on questions about the war that claimed her husband a week before their seventh wedding anniversary.

"I don't go there. I believe what my husband stood for," she said.

Instead, Pokorney said she feels blessed for the love they shared and the gift of their daughter.

"She is her daddy. She has his spirit," Pokorney said.

Through her work with the Fallen Heroes Fund, Pokorney said she is carrying out the values and compassion her husband lived by.

"He taught me what it is to be selfless."


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