Fallen remembered during ‘Gold Star Mothers and Families Day’

| October 3, 2014 | 0 Comments
Friends and families who lost loved ones, while serving in the military, gather to honor them at “Gold Star Mother & Gold Star Family Day” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Sunday. About 40 wreaths and pairs of boots were laid at the foot of the Lady Columbia statue.

Friends and families who lost loved ones, while serving in the military, gather to honor them at “Gold Star Mother & Gold Star Family Day” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Sunday. About 40 wreaths and pairs of boots were laid at the foot of the Lady Columbia statue.

Story and photo by Jackie M. Young
Contributing Writer

HONOLULU — About 150 friends and family members of fallen servicemen and women gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Sept. 28, to remember their loved ones during “Gold Star Mother & Gold Star Family Day.”

This is the third year, locally, that Gold Star Family Day was celebrated.

“In 2012, I was at my son’s gravesite, here, at Punchbowl,” recounted Elisabeth “Lis” Olsen, family support officer and the driving force behind Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) at Fort Shafter, “and I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to place a wreath to honor my son, Toby, at the feet of Lady Columbia! What would it take to do that?”

(Left to right) Sister Sherry Viray and parents Leo and Luz Viray place a wreath and the boots of their family member, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Don Viray, pilot, 25th CAB, at the foot of the Lady of Columbia statue at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Sunday. The ceremony was the third year observing Gold Star Mothers & Family Day.

(Left to right) Sister Sherry Viray and parents Leo and Luz Viray place a wreath and the boots of their family member, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Don Viray, pilot, 25th CAB, at the foot of the Lady of Columbia statue at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Sunday. The ceremony was the third year observing Gold Star Mothers & Family Day.

Olsen successfully navigated the bureaucratic channels and that same year, a small group of survivors were allowed to place wreaths at the foot of the iconic statue representing liberty and the country, at Punchbowl.

The ceremony has grown to the recognition it receives today, with attendance and speeches on Sunday by such dignitaries as Col. Richard A. Fromm, commander, U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii; Michael S. Amarosa, director, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, USAG-HI; and state Rep. Mark Takai (a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard for 14 years), among others.

After the official speeches, family members walked the steps with boots and wreaths to commemorate their loved ones, to a platform just below the Lady Columbia statue, where the boots and wreaths were placed.

Olsen spoke to the audience about the deep significance of being able to publicly honor fallen loved ones. She introduced three teen keiki of fallen service members, who read poems or spoke, personally, about the loss of their loved ones.

“I never asked why he went to war,” read Bj Mikasobe, 15, of his dad, Sgt. Jensen Mikasobe, Company A, Warrior Transition Battalion, Tripler Army Medical Center, from a poem, “I didn’t care why he was sent. I was too busy enjoying the life I had, because of my dad. I finally understood my dad, but it hurt so much. He sacrificed so much so I could be free. And his battle scars, he suffered for me.”

For Leo Viray, 58, and his wife, Luz, 57, the ceremony also held deep meaning for them so they could memorialize their son, CW2 Don Viray, a pilot with the 225th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, who died at age 25 in Afghanistan in 2012. “Don spent five years in the Hawaii Army National Guard and three years in active duty,” said Leo. “Yesterday we walked, with Don’s boots on the float, in the Aloha Festivals Parade in Waikiki.

“This is the second year we’re honoring him at Gold Star Family Day, here.”

As for next year’s event, Olsen says someone else will be taking over the reins, as she and her husband, Col. James Olsen, TAMC, will be retiring and moving to San Antonio, Texas.

“The new person will have to carry the torch onwards,” said Olsen.

Gold Star Mothers and Families

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Mothers and family members who’ve lost a loved one while serving in the military can be identified by the wearing of a gold star pin.

In 1936, Congress officially designated the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Mother’s Day,” derived from the American custom during World War I of families hanging a banner or flag from the window of their homes with a colored star to denote a family member serving in the armed forces. A blue star meant the person was still living, but a gold star meant a family member had been killed in the line of duty.

In 2012, Gold Star Mother’s Day was formally expanded to include Gold Star Families, and this year, Sept. 28 was officially proclaimed as Gold Star Family Day by the State of Hawaii.

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Category: News, Observances

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