Patrick Railey was nine years old in 1970 when his father was killed in Vietnam. On the same day Chief Warrant Officer George Railey was fatally wounded, Patrick, his sister, and his mother were moving from Florida to their new house near Fort Bragg.
"I remember the scene of a military vehicle pulling up, well-dressed soldiers getting out and coming up to the house," Railey recalled. "You always knew that was bad news. You didn't want that to be your family."
George Railey died of his injuries two days after the Railey family arrived in Fayetteville.
"It was a traumatic thing," said Railey. "You just knew that your life wasn't going to be the same after that."
As a widow raising two children, Railey's mother Christina had to find a way to support her family. She chose a non-traditional path for a young woman, opening a gas station and used car lot selling muscle cars to young G.I.s.
"Anything that had a big motor in it, would go fast, and sounded good," recalled Railey. "It was all about speed and fun."
Throughout the next decade, Railey and his sister pitched in, working shifts at the gas station and car lot after school. He remembers his mother made a name for herself in a male-dominated field.
"She was not a shrinking violet, so she didn't have a problem with breaking into the good old boy type of network," he said. "She had to make the right decisions at the right time and roll up her sleeves and get in there and be one of the guys."
The car lot and gas station fared well throughout the 1970s, providing the Raileys with financial stability. Railey said his mother's first foray into entrepreneurship paved the way for a lifetime of business ventures.
"She had a pretty good sense of business about her, and for her, it worked out."
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org