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Honoring Gold Star Families

September 27, 2010

Yesterday was Gold Star Mothers Day, a day formally recognized by Congress in 1936 which honors all mothers who have lost a son or daughter in war. It is an exceptionally poignant day, and in my time at the Pentagon was always recognized with a feeling of sadness, honor and grateful admiration. 

Those who are in the military or work closely alongside them every day rarely forget the sacrifices made by brave men and women who make it possible for us to wake up, go to work, and go about our jobs. And there’s a clear recognition that the price we pay to leave so peacefully is a price paid by the blood of men and women in uniform. From World War I to today American families have also paid a significant sacrifice, and for even the most steely eyed warrior the image of a mother or father, wife or husband, son or daughter, mourning a loved one lost is a powerful one, that drives home the gravity of the mission our Armed Forces perform. 

I’ll always remember a specific set of photos I received for posting to the U.S. Army’s social media sites, at this exact time last year. Gen. George Casey, Chief of Staff of the Army, attended the  ‘Salute to Children of Our Fallen’, a portion of the fourth annual ‘Time of Remembrance’ ceremony held at the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 26, 2009. A great Army photojournalist did what great photojournalists do – she captured the emotion of that moment in several images of Gen. Casey with the children of the fallen. 

Gold Star mothers and children may not put on a uniform every day, but I know with absolute certainty they spend every day of their lives wearing the star of their loved one’s service, carrying the burden and feeling the sacrifice. We owe them more than we can repay them, but if you give them nothing else take a moment to think about all they’ve given. Offer up a prayer of comfort for them, whether their loved one died weeks or decades ago, and recognize that it is upon the strength of these families and service members – those who serve so we don’t have to – that each of us is able to wake up and go to work this morning, this week. 

A Gold Star Family member shows Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. his father-”a fallen hero,”–during the fourth annual ‘Time of Remembrance’ honoring America’s fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq in ceremonies held at the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 26, 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson, OCPA)

I still can’t look at the photo of the little boy holding up his shirt to show Gen. Casey the photo of his dad who died without crying. But it’s a good cry – the kind we should all have every now again. They’re tears wrapped in thanks, hopefulness and committment that our country do right by those children who have sacrificed so much.

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