Holly Higgins: One of our newest Gold Star Mothers whose 20-year-old son, Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui was killed at Abbey Gate on 26 Aug 2021 did not think she would have the strength to watch the play. She was nervous and expressed experiencing extreme anxiety. Less than a year after her son Kareem was KIA, her other son, Dakota died from suicide, and she has felt very traumatized. She also expressed feeling exploited by other organizations. I did not push, I just gently offered to introduce her to our trauma interventionists who would be available to offer her support around her trauma if she would like to come to the theater on Friday during the day. After meeting with Scott and the cast, Shana told me that she felt safe and wanted to come to see the play. Shana expressed feeling surrounded by love during the pre-show circle.
“I loved everything about the play Last Out. The way the play is done makes you feel like you are actually there experiencing everything they are experiencing. When the wife thinks her husband has passed away, she lets out a scream, I felt that scream, I knew that scream because that’s how I screamed when i found out my son LCPL. Kareem Nikoui was killed in the Afghanistan withdrawal on 8-26-2021. I tried to hold back my tears but I couldn’t because it brought me back to the night I was told I had lost my son. The part where she’s handed the folded flag, once again I relived the day I was handed that folded flag.
‘9-21-2021’ I remember feeling numb, in shock and like I was in a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. It was so amazing to me that a play could actually bring out so much in me, that I could connect in this way with a play. The workshop they have is amazing. It touched my heart to know that they don’t only help first responders, and veterans but they also help active duty and families of the fallen.
I got to meet so many wonderful people. Scott Mann who’s the lead in the play was amazing in every way and so kind. I met Gary Sinise and I was so touched about how much he cares about our military. He was very kind to me and thanked me for my sons sacrifice and service and he let me know how very sorry he was for my loss. He gave me a hug and it didn’t seem fake, it seemed like he truly cared about what happened to my son and like he was sorry for the pain I carry in my heart.
Up on stage they have a wall with pictures of fallen Heroes and other things to represent our fallen. I loved that all 13 of our fallen heroes that were killed in the Afghanistan withdrawal are on that wall. I left a bracelet that’s red, white and blue, it says “Kareem Nikoui” “Norco strong” on it. Norco is a small town here in SoCal that i grew up in and it’s also a town I chose to raise my kids in. Norco is a town that is kind, and everyone looks out for each other. When I lost Kareem, my town did everything they could to honor him and show their support. People who never met him cried because they were so hurt, he died so young but also so thankful that he was so brave and served our country. They are proud to say they are from the same town as LCpl. Kareem Nikoui. So that bracelet I left behind has meaning. It bears my sons name, and it reminds people where he came from and that a strong community creates strong people who care.
Knowing about the workshop they have has gave me hope that there is help available to me to help me as I grieve two of my sons and I’m not alone. I’m so thankful that Holly Higgins reached out to me and lovingly encouraged me to come to the play and to see the workshop.”