To begin with, I don’t remember when I’ve gotten so emotional with tears running down my face while reading a book. I guess that's due in large part because I’ve been blessed to become friends with Karen and Billy Vaughn, and their story hits home; even when I’ve gone back and reread several sections, I still get misty as Karen pours out her soul describing Aaron and how she and Billy raised him.
Whether they are working individually in different locations or together as a team, Gold Star parents Karen and Billy Vaughn are iconic American Treasures. They certainly did not set out to be such, and no one would disagree that if they could go back in time to change the circumstances that brought them into the public spotlight, they gladly would.
Recently, in her “spare” time, when Karen wasn’t busy travelling and speaking around the country to Tea Party groups, High School Assemblies, Churches, Rotary Clubs, radio shows, appearances on Fox News and a myriad of countless other venues, she pulled out her keyboard and wrote a National Best Selling Book titled “World Changer” which invites the reader to a ring side seat to the molding of a hero.
If you are not familiar with their story, Karen and Billy Vaughn are the parents of SOC Aaron Carson Vaughn, who along with 29 other Americans lost their lives on the fateful evening of August 6, 2011 when Extortion 17 was brought down in Afghanistan under what can best be described as questionable circumstances.
Just like any other parents, Karen and Billy will never completely recover from the tragic loss of their only son, and only their strong faith in our Lord Jesus and knowledge of Aaron’s strong faith in Him, along with the outpouring of love and support from family and friends has allowed them to keep moving ahead.
Instead of letting their grief overcome them, they have chosen to share Aaron’s legacy with all those who will listen, and “World Changer” does exactly that.
“World Changer” starts at the very beginning from when this amazing young man was born, through some of his very 'untypical’ crazy kid stuff, because even as a child, there was something noticeably different about him.
She describes one of the early and really big moments with one of the cows on the family farm by the name of “White Cow.” From Karen’s description, one can visualize that “White Cow” was something like a cartoonized snortin’ brahma bull straight out of Warner Bros. You see, “White Cow” was the alpha animal and bully on the farm, with ridiculously long horns, a take no prisoners kind of attitude, and was something of a nemesis to young Aaron; that is until the day that the Vaughn’s were rounding up all of the cattle into a corral. While reading, you can picture the scene, Aaron was at the gate getting ready to close it behind the last cow, and a little nervous about what “White Cow” might do. Billy told him that if “WC” started giving him a hard time to just haul off and punch her on the snout, which is exactly what Aaron did. Apparently, “WC” looked a little stunned and accepted that there was no pushing this kid around, and when “WC” eventually wound up as a pot roast, I have to believe that Aaron’s portion tasted just a little better than everyone else’s.
It’s funny how such defining moments stick out. Over the ensuing years, a lot of “White Cows” helped forge this hero into the man he would become, and just like he did with that 1800 pounds of snortin’ attitude, Aaron stood up and punched them all square in the nose to victory.
High School Sports were no exception either. Whether just practicing or engaged in a scheduled game, Aaron gave it everything he had; to the point that one time during a scrimmage, a teammate who happened to be the quarterback, walked off the field demanding that something be done about Aaron and his aggressive methods. Even though they did find it kind of funny, the coaches had to politely suggest to Aaron that “kill the quarterback” was reserved for games against other teams. I can only imagine the smiles on Karen and Billy, as well as Aaron over that. After all, that other player might have torn his skirt or something if they hadn’t reined Aaron in a bit.
From the time he was about eight years old, Aaron knew that he wanted to be a Navy SEAL and focused on that singular goal his entire life; not simply doing everything he needed to do, but excelling and overcoming any and all obstacles, every step of the way. For most people, the potentially life-disabling event of a destroyed ACL, with other severely torn ligaments would have seen them settle into lives of “cuda been” mediocrity; but Aaron, with the mind and heart of a warrior SEAL, wasn’t like most people or anyone really, because he simply turned those things into minor setbacks that forced him to work even harder. And not just once, but twice.
This is a great place to mention a scripture Aaron read often and new well, “I can do all things through Christ, Who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
When America was attacked on 9/11, Aaron steeled in his resolve and enlisted in the US Navy’s BUD/S program on his 21st birthday. The rest as they say is history and this book about Aaron’s legacy is a must read.
If you haven’t yet, get your hands on a copy of “World Changer.” Learn about this amazing young man and his family, and read all the way to the end to see some of the great “parent coaching” ideas Karen offers her readers. If you are so moved, reach out to Operation 300 and see how you can become involved with helping the widows, children, and families of fallen heroes, or at very least come away from it resolved to make your own local area, our nation, and the world in general a much better place.
Let the words of this amazing woman sink in and let them challenge us all to become “World Changers.”