Nikki's American Dream

An Original Docu-Series on Nikki's American Dream Youtube Channel

"When you follow your dreams, expressing yourself is as easy as breathing and everything you do becomes art." — Nikki Araguz Loyd

When Nikki's husband passed away, life turmoil cut into her wrenching grief of spousal loss. Married on August 23, 2008, Nikki and Thomas Araguz lived in Wharton, Texas, where they loved each other and Thomas' two sons. Nikki's media background and years in advertising led to publishing Wharton County Living Magazine.

Encouraged by Nikki to attend full-time classes at Wharton County College, Thomas earned certifications in the Police Academy, Fire Academy and as an EMT. Nikki worked as a Sales Executive and Sales Manager for a Houston GLBT magazine - until she and Thomas recognized their own community's need for a locally-focused publication. Thomas served Wharton as a Volunteer Firefighter - after marrying Nikki, he achieved his lifelong career dreams, serving as a Sheriff's Deputy, and completing courses required for paid firefighters. The couple looked forward to making more of their dreams come true.

On July 3, 2010, when Captain Araguz answered the call to fight the raging Boling fire, Nikki was on a business trip - sadly, not one person in Thomas' family contacted his wife to let her know he was missing. Nikki learned that the love of her life was lost in a fire from a posting on a social networking site - another fireman's wife broke the tragic news that Thomas was gone. In a state of shock, Nikki drove home - only to be unexpectedly outcast by her in-laws, prevented from seeing her stepchildren, and treated as if she were a stranger. On that horrific day, she not only lost her husband and best friend, she lost her entire family, home life, and what she thought was a loving relationship with Thomas' family.

Thomas was buried on July 11 - the next morning, Nikki was devastated to learn that two separate lawsuits had been filed, in an attempt to take Nikki's benefits as a Firefighter's spouse, away from her. Thomas specifically named her as beneficiary in one instance - leaving no question his intention that his wife, Nikki, and two sons, be economically secure, without financial worry - if he were called by God too early.

The tragedy of Thomas' heroic death was amplified by allegations and lawsuits filed by his mother and ex-wife, resulting in national public interest and media attention. Certainly world-wide attention would have been averted without civil litigation - Nikki could have quietly mourned her husband's death. Instead, she faces legal battles that NO surviving spouse should have to fight.

Nikki's family grieves with her. The abrupt loss of Thomas and both boys, has caused heartache for grandparents, aunts and uncles, and two young cousins who could not understand WHY they were "shunned" at their uncle's funeral.

Nikki marches onward, carried by faith in God, strong family ties, and support of many friends. She is a courageous survivor of life challenges. Her story is rich at its very core: heart-warming, heart-wrenching, humorous, tumultuous and victorious.

Recognizing that the future is woefully uncertain, in speaking about her life and experiences, Nikki reminds listeners to appreciate every minute, live and love generously. Her hope is to make a difference for others by telling her story, at every opportunity. She is working on a book, film offers, and other projects.

Nikki and her family are grateful for the out-pouring of understanding, kindness, sympathy, and support from across the globe. Nikki's widow's benefits are withheld during litigation until a final outcome, which could be lengthy. As of October, 2011, her legal team filed an appeal with the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, Texas. It is hoped the case will be heard in 2013.

Please rest assured: Workman's Compensation, Social Security and other benefits are being received for Thomas' sons by their biological mother. They will also receive full scholarships to any Texas college upon high school graduation as children of a Fallen Firefighter.

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