Heards comforted by memories of military-bound son killed in 1999 collapse

TYLER, Tex. (KBTX) - "You just never think you won't have your children all of your life," Andrea Heard said while looking at pictures of her youngest son, Christopher.

A corner of Andrea and Les Heard's home is dedicated to Chris. In it are pictures of their two sons.

"I'm sure Jason misses his brother terribly."

There are also honors like a saber he received from the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen upon being named Outstanding Senior Military Cadet. All reminders of a life cut tragically short.

"Those are his [Aggie] boots that we were given," she explained. "It's bittersweet to see this Aggie Ring. I wish he was wearing that ring himself."

At 19-years-old, Chris was one of 12 Aggies killed when the 1999 bonfire came crashing to the ground.

"It was the longest day of my life," Andrea recalled.

"Those first years, you just feel so sorry for yourself that you don't have him. But as time goes on, you do remember very fondly those memories of good times together. "

Memories like Chris' love for country music and the U.S. military. The day before bonfire collapsed, Chris signed up for the Marines. Although he was a few days shy of being sworn in, he bears the title Honorary Marine, given to him by the U.S. Marine Corps.

"He was going to be someone in life and we're very sad that we never saw what that was going to be, " Andrea said.

"We know he would have done great things within the military just like his older brother has done."

His brother Jason is a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and he and his wife have three children. Les and Andrea adore being grandparents.

"We never wanted Jason to be the only one and it ended up that way," her voice trailed off.

Married for 44 years, Andrea and Les recently retired to a quiet lake in Tyler. It's a great place to reflect and remember their son, who will always be 19.

"Although every now and then, I'll have a dream and I think of him as being a man," she smiled.

"It's bittersweet. Bittersweet because you wake up and it isn't true."

Les and Andrea don't plan on attending the 20th-anniversary ceremony in College Station on November 18. Instead, they will wait for their son Scott and his family, who are stationed in London. They will visit the Bonfire Memorial together during the Christmas holiday.