The Vinson family is experiencing the first month of “empty nest” syndrome since our baby left for her freshman year of college. Driving by the tennis courts or football fields and not seeing your kid with a jersey isn’t easy, but we are currently filled with the joy of cheering for other kids. It’s been the blessing of a lifetime watching Wylie ISD students achieve the past eleven years, and it’s hard to believe that once crawling babies are now playing football for the first time in a Wylie uniform. Robby Welch IV is playing on the offensive line for McMillan for the first time, just like his dad did before him. We cherish these traditions, for they make us who we are. We cherish these traditions, for they make us who we want to be.
When I first met Robby and his mom, Becky, he was a toddler. He has grown into a kind and witty young man. With a sweet smile and “buzz cut” hairstyle, Robby is one of the happiest kids you will ever know. Becky has served as a cornerstone of the Wylie ISD PTA for as long as I have known her. Meeting Becky was especially important to me since, only months earlier, her husband, Robby’s dad, made the greatest sacrifice for our country. His absence is one that we still feel to this day.
“Where were you on September 11, 2001?” For those of us old enough to remember that horrific day, we all find ourselves with an answer to that question. We all recall the horror and the moment that we received the word on what had happened. We all recall where we were when the world stopped turning.
Robert Welch III, like his son, was affectionately known as “Robby” during his time at Wylie High School. A star football player, Rob, as he was known later in life, was part of countless other activities, including soccer, baseball, and band. He also participated in Civil Air Patrol and the Air Force JROTC program, which was only fitting considering he grew up in a military family.
Rob was a junior at Wylie High when the events of September 11 took place. The day that forever changed the world. It was a day that changed Rob’s life, too. “He told me that day that he wanted to join the Army so that he could help protect our country and keep another 9/11 from ever happening again,” Becky said. Becky was Rob’s high school sweetheart. The couple began dating in the eighth grade. If there was anyone who knew Rob, it was Becky. She said that while Rob had always planned to join the military and serve his country, watching the towers fall that day hit him hard. “It was a defining point in his life,” she said, “as it was for all of us.”
Rob graduated from Wylie High School in 2003. He and Becky married a year later. And, in 2005, he enlisted in the Texas National Guard as a Private First Class. In 2008, after graduating from the University of Texas-Arlington with a degree in military science, Rob was commissioned into active duty Army as an Ordnance Officer. “He wanted to not only protect our freedoms here at home but also help bring freedom to other people in the world, too,” Becky said. “He never doubted his calling or mission.”
Rob’s first deployment came in January of 2011. He headed to Afghanistan where he was stationed at Forward Operating Base Salerno in the Khost Province. On April 3, 2011, insurgents attacked the base. Rob, who was on duty, was mortally wounded by a mortar shell. He was 26 years old.
“Robby was one who served because he truly loved his country and wanted to ensure our freedoms were protected,” Becky said. “He joined the Army and was willing to serve despite knowing the risks and possible costs. He was willing to lay down his life for his country if it required him to do so.”
Becky says she thinks Rob would want people to remember what he stood for and what his sacrifice was for. He believed in our country and wanted to ensure that what happened on September 11 never happened again. As for Becky, she wants her husband to be remembered for who he was and the life he lived, not the life that was lost. “Robby was a devoted husband and father and a loyal friend to all,” she said. “He had a huge heart for Christ, a melt your heart smile, was a True Texan who loved John Wayne, country music, and the Dallas Cowboys, and was a soldier who served because he loved his country and understood what freedom really costs.”
The 2,977 lives lost on September 11, 2001 will never be forgotten. They were civilians, first responders, and military personnel. They were also mothers and fathers. Husbands and wives. Brothers and sisters. Family and friends. The lives of the more than 7,000 service members killed in post-September 11 war operations won’t be forgotten either. “The greatest gift you can give to a Gold Star Family is to remember,” Becky said, emphasizing that final word. “Remember the lives and the sacrifices that were made,” she said. “Like I always say, our loved ones are never truly gone so long as their stories and names are remembered.”
1LT Robert F. Welch III
Wylie High School Class of 2003
Father, Husband, Son
When talking with Becky, she reminded me of the many ways our Wylie ISD family can support veterans, their families, and Gold Star families. Simply saying “thank you” or buying a meal for a veteran in public can go a long way. There are other ways we can help, too. Some ways include wearing a Poppy on Memorial Day or volunteering for local charities like One Tribe Foundation, Carry the Load, Whiskers for Wounded Warriors, Combat Warriors, and the 1LT Robert F. Welch III Charity. Our community can also collect donations for our local veterans food pantry located at the Wylie National Guard Armory. We can also write cards for veterans at the local VA hospital or help support our Wylie American Legion or Wylie American Legion Auxiliary. Regardless of what we choose, we can make an impact. Regardless of what we choose, we can make a difference.
Saturday marks 20 years since the September 11 attacks. Please join me in remembering the lives we lost that day and the bravery and selflessness so many of our fellow Americans showed that day and in the years that followed. We will always remember all of those we lost, and we continue to pray for all of those who were affected.