Thoughts on Memorial Day 2018

The Gold Star honors those who have fallen in defense of our nation, and it is a meaningful symbol that the families can display in their homes, wear as a pin, and now carry a special card that allows them easier access to our Military installations so they are able to receive services and support more easily. On Army installations there are also reserved parking spaces for Gold Star family vehicles. If you see someone with a little gold star pin on their blouse or lapel, that is someone who has known great loss and I hope you will treat them with a little bit of extra kindness and patience. Maybe say a little prayer for them.

I pray for the families of the fallen every day.  I do. I pray they find comfort and peace through the mercy and love of God, and through the words and deeds of compassionate people who deeply respect the amazing people their fallen heroes were.

My husband and I try to live our lives to honor the memory of the fallen who served with him in his Brigade, the Ready First, back in 2006-07. And it shapes every day of our lives. We owe a huge debt that we can never repay to their families and anything we can do when one of them asks, we will always try to do.

I am constantly amazed at the ways Gold Star family members give back to their communities, and so often, to the Military family that their fallen hero loved. In all sorts of ways every day, the family members of the fallen are finding ways to enhance the quality of life for others, because they want to honor the memory of their son or daughter, husband or wife, mom or dad. It is truly inspiring and humbling to witness.

There’s a phrase in the Bible, in the Old Testament, that speaks of God bringing “beauty from ashes.” That’s what I witness these families do. There will always be a place in their heart that misses their loved one terribly and they will find a new normal that allows them to go on. Some may do things they never knew they could do, or ever even imagined they would want to do. Like run a non-profit, or take care of strangers’ needs. But the love for the one they lost spurs them on to greatness. Yes, greatness. The acts are done with great love and so they are great.

Mother Theresa once said it is not the greatness of our actions, but the love with which we do them that matters. But much of what they do is actually great. Maybe not by the world’s standards of what ‘success’ is. They may not make a ton of money or become famous. That doesn’t matter to them. For those family members, just as it was for their fallen hero we honor today, it’s about doing the right thing, it’s about taking care of others and that selfless service their loved one embodied now becomes their fondest wish to emulate.

But it can also be as basic as living a life of integrity. Families can honor their loved ones who are no longer with them by being honest, working hard, being thoughtful, a good friend, a positive and productive person. We thank them for their service and ask for blessings upon them for their sacrifice. I have said for a long time that love is not hindered by distance or time. I like to say that we’re connected at the heart to our loved ones and so time and distance don’t matter. This is especially true of the love between our Gold Star families and the Soldiers they’ve lost.

Gold Star families are strong and they are brave. Brave doesn’t mean you’re not ever afraid; it means you go on anyway. Bravery is fighting back your fear and choking back your tears and moving forward. Never really moving on because the one you love will always be a part of your life, someone who helped make you who you are.
I sadly, know an awful lot of Gold Star wives at this point in our history, most of them much younger than me. Often with children who never got to know their dads as well as they all would have wanted. I know a lot of Gold Star moms and dads now, too. Some are my age, or younger.

I can speak of their bravery, and their generous spirits, I can tell you I am humbled each time I think about how strong and compassionate they are – to a person! I know and am proud to share that they are all still fiercely loyal to their hero and to the Military in which he or she served.

I don’t know how many of you know where the Gold Star concept comes from. I certainly didn’t. I’ve known of Gold Star Mothers for a long time, but did not know the origins. Here are the basics of the story that I found on a Google search:

Lieutenant G. V. Seibold was a pilot, killed in action during World War I.

LT Seibold’s mother, Grace, “realizing that self-contained grief is self-destructive, devoted her time and efforts not only to working in the hospital, [where she’d been volunteering since her son was listed as missing,] but also to extending the hand of friendship to other mothers whose sons had lost their lives in military service.

She organized a group consisting solely of these special mothers, with the purpose of not only comforting each other, but giving loving care to hospitalized veterans confined in government hospitals far from home.” Grace embodies the very selflessness that we still witness in so many Gold Star families to this day. How fitting that the woman who founded Gold Star Mothers was named Grace.

A Gold Star family member does not have to be officially registered to belong to a Gold Star family. If someone has lost a loved one in combat, he or she is a member of that special group. The Gold Star families I know are living Grace Siebold’s mission of caring for those who remain behind, either survivor family members or the wounded and their families.

Veterans are well respected by most Americans, as well they should be. But why? What is it that makes others think that Veterans are somehow special? And I agree that they are! But let’s consider why that is.

The US Military Academy class of 2012’s motto is “For more than ourselves”. I love that motto. It epitomizes what Military service is all about. And I think that begins the explanation of the respect that the public has for our service members. To live for others, to be willing to run toward the fire when everyone else and everything within yourself that is naturally geared toward self-preservation, is saying run away, that’s worthy of respect, that’s special and praise worthy.

A few years ago, I heard a rabbi speak at a Day of Remembrance event on Ft. Hood. That is a day to remember and honor the lives of all the Jewish people who suffered and perished during the Holocaust of World War II. This young rabbi was sharing the gratitude of the Jewish people for the Americans who fought to save them from the concentration camps.

The rabbi, a US Army Chaplain, said that fighting injustice, and fighting for those who are persecuted, is a holy act. And, of course, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend.

I love that the Chaplain shared this encouraging message with a room full of Soldiers and some family members that day. I wish that all of our Service members could know that. We all need to appreciate the holy acts of our Veterans, be very proud of them all, those who we’ve lost and those who still serve or are retired but still with us.

Here are the words of a great leader, a commander in chief of our nation at one of its most perilous moments, Abraham Lincoln. He sent a letter to a Gold Star mother, Mrs. Bixby, who had lost 2 sons in the Civil War.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

May we all carry that same solemn pride within us for all of our fallen Veterans who perished in service to our nation. May they rest in eternal peace and may perpetual Light shine upon them. Let us always remember our Gold Star families who have given us so much. God bless them all and God bless America!

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