It was on that day that her only son, Army PFC Robert Worthington, who had arrived in Iraq less than a month before, was killed, along with a fellow soldier, when his Stryker Army Fighting Vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.
Stiffey Worthington addressed more than 100 people gathered for last week’s dedication of the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Rex, which stands just a few yards from a sign on Rex Road honoring the memory of her son.
Remembering the events of the fateful day, Stiffey Worthington said she was not at home when the official word of Robert’s death was delivered by a representative of the Army’s casualty notification office.
Instead, he and a chaplain accompanying him found Robert’s grandparents and notified them of his being killed in action.
“When someone came to me later and asked for Robert’s Social Security number, I knew he had been killed and that I would never see or hold my son again,” said Stiffey Worthington, who is now a member of the American Gold Star Mothers Inc., a national non-political group comprised of mothers who have lost sons or daughters in wartime.
Ironically, she said, she was writing a letter to her son when she was notified of his death.
As to her reaction upon receiving the news, Stiffey Worthington said there are no words to describe it.
Robert’s remains were returned to her nine days after his death and he was buried with full military honors.
In fact, Stiffey Worthington said, her son was actually buried twice.
“Robert was killed in May that year and, the following October, the Army contacted me and said they had found more of his remains,” she said.
When she received these additional remains, she had them cremated and added to the remains that had already been buried.
“My son was a graduate of Eagles Landing Christian Academy and died protecting our freedom,” Stiffey Worthington said.
“He is a true American hero and will always be my hero,” she added.
Her son had wanted to go into the Marines immediately after graduation but was told he would have to wait for a while to join, so he promptly joined the Army.
Stiffey Worthington said that shortly after his second remains were interred, she received an unmarked DVD which, she said, contained more than 59 photos of what was said to be other of her son’s remains.
She said this is not Army procedure to send photos like this to a late soldier’s relatives but no one has claimed responsibility for sending the photos to her.
“I am proud of Robert and his service to our country,” Stiffey Worthington said.