RUPERT — Many holidays are military themed and those that aren’t — like Christmas — bring a special heartache to the families of Idaho’s fallen soldiers.
“The flags and patriotic displays bring back memories of a flag-lined funeral route,” said Anna Workman, Rupert mother of Army Sgt. Chris Workman, 33. He was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2012 along with his crew when their helicopter crashed during a night mission.
“This time of year is really difficult,” Chris’s father, John Workman, said.
Anna erected an Honor Tree for Idaho’s fallen soldiers, who have died since 9/11 to help soothe her spirit and honor the sacrifice of the Idaho families.
“The holidays are stark reminders of why we do not have our son,” Anna said.
Seventy-two ceramic ornaments with photos of Idaho’s fallen soldiers dress the tree on display in the front window of Workman Inc. on the Rupert Square.
Several people worked on the tree, including Dixie Walker, of Heyburn, Georgene Mason, of Twin Falls, who donated the green ware and Beth Garatea, of Murtaugh.
Each ornament is embellished with the Army’s Gold Star, which serves as a symbol of sacrifice.
“Sometimes it just gives me a chill thinking about it,” Walker said.
Walker painted all of the ornaments, a project she worked on all through the summer and she worked to get the stars just the right shade of yellow-gold.
“I think the tree is prettier than anything you’d see at the festival of trees,” Walker said. “It certainly has more meaning.”
“As I placed the photos of the soldiers on the ornaments I said their names and read their stories. I don’t want to forget them,” Anna said.
The idea of the tree came to Anna after she was invited to send an ornament for Chris by Patti Rios Smith and the Gold Star Families of Illinois for a Hero Tree put on display at their state capitol rotunda in 2016.
No Gold Star Families organization exists in the state.
Anna said displaying the tree at the state Capitol would be nice, but not this year.
“I really wanted to keep it here close to me this year,” Anna said. “Maybe it can go to the Capitol next year.”
The tree, which swivels, is periodically turned, so the pictures of all the soldiers can be seen from the street.
Anna also fundraises for The Sgt. Chris Workman Memorial Scholarship Fund and other projects that memorialize Idaho’s soldiers who never came home.
The scholarship gave out $8,000 this year. Fundraising helps keep her mind off the tragic side of why the scholarship exists.
The holiday season is especially painful, she said.
“The loss of a child is excruciating no matter what the circumstances, and the holiday season is a brutal time of year for those parents,” Anna said.
Chris entered the military later in life at age 29.
His age, Anna said, made him more mature than the other soldiers and they looked up to him for advice.
Chris graduated from Minico High School in 1997 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business finance in 2005. His first taste of the military was with the Idaho National Guard. He joined the Army in 2009.
He was trained in chemical, biological and hazardous materials and was assigned to the 72nd Chemical Company at Schofield/Wheeler Air Force Base in Hawaii and deployed with the 2025 Light Aviation Division as a door gunner on a Blackhawk helicopter.
He was four months into his deployment when the helicopter crashed during a support mission to a suicide bombing site to pick up injured Iraqi soldiers.
They were only one minute and 30 seconds into their flight.