Veteran’s legacy lives on through family

The family of Army Spc. Travis Vaughn, a veteran who died in Afghanistan, thinks there’s no better way to honor his legacy than to help others who have served.

The fifth annual Shower of Gifts was held at the Iowa Veterans Home Monday, as thousands of donated items were given to IVH residents in an effort coordinated by the Vaughn family.

“To be able to give back to these veterans is really important to us,” said Kandie Vaughn, Travis’s stepmom who lives in Reinbeck.

Travis Vaughn, of Cedar Falls, was killed at the age of 26 in a Chinook helicopter crash on Feb. 17, 2007.

Veterans lined up far in the hallway to receive items such as toiletries, clothing, books and videos. The Vaughn family collected the items in the Cedar Valley area and brought a 17-foot U-Haul to IVH chock full of items for veterans.

“The mission Kandie and the family have taken here to support the veterans is amazing,” said Commandant David Worley.

The event drew Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, to IVH as well. Braley presented the Vaughn family with copies of the Congressional Record honoring the memory of Travis.

“This extraordinary family took an incredible tragedy and turned it into a great opportunity to serve veterans,” Braley said. “I am so proud of the legacy that you are building in Travis’s memory.”

Braley gave Kandie and Travis’ birth mother, Christine Vaughn, big hugs at the event.

“I’ve gotten to know his family so well,” Braley said. “…I’ve just been so impressed with how the family continues to draw strength from Travis’s tragic death to pay it forward to take care of veterans.”

Braley said some of the looks on the faces of veterans before they got their items reminded him of Christmas morning.

Kandie said she knows Travis would approve of this effort, which they’ve done for five years and plan to do it every year near the anniversary of his death to honor him and the veterans who served.

“I can feel him,” she said. “He’s here.”