Fallen remembered during ‘Gold Star Mothers and Families Day’

| October 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

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Story and photos by
Don Robbins
Contributing Writer

HONOLULU — Hundreds of family members and friends of fallen military service men and women gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, or Punchbowl, Sunday, to remember their loved ones during “Gold Star Mother & Gold Star Family Day.”

This is the fourth year, locally, that the event has been celebrated.

Col. Richard A. Fromm, commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, was the guest speaker.

“To our Gold Star Mothers and Families here today – you’ve earned our nation’s deepest respect and admiration for what you do every day on behalf of those you loved and lost – and for what they did for this nation and for freedom-loving peoples around the world,” Fromm said.

A1_Gold Star Mothers_0015After the official speeches, family members and friends 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.

They then proceeded down the steps to join a “lei of remembrance.” Participants opened fresh flower lei, which were joined together by each person tying the lei to those on their left and right.

Following the blowing of the conch and the playing of the last note of Taps, this continuous lei was placed on the ground with American flags along the grass curb at the cemetery.

Among those placing boots and lei at the base of Lady Columbia were Marvelyn Agno and her children Jarren and Jensen. They were there to honor their family member, the late Staff Sgt. Randy Agno of the 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Bde. Combat Team.

“He was a really humble, real down-to-earth guy, said Marvelyn. “He was always trying to help.”

Staff Sgt. Randy Agno earned awards Army-wide as a food specialist noncommissioned officer, said Lt. Col. Patrick Disney, commander of the 325th BSB. “He was very good at his craft.”

Rachel and Kailer Suerth were also among the family members participating in the ceremony. They placed an American flag and lei of remembrance on the ground in memory of their fallen loved one, the late Staff Sgt. Keoki Suerth of the 10th Mountain Division Signal Company.

“He was a great Soldier, and he was my best friend,” said Rachel, tearfully, of her husband Keoki.

In his remarks, Fromm said, “I would also offer a special mahalo to our Survivor Outreach Services Program and their dedicated staff for the tremendous and caring support they provide to our Gold Star Families. I would like to take a moment to recognize the person who conceived these four annual ceremonies and who has championed Survivor Outreach Services and all it stands for: Lis Olsen.

“Lis, as you leave us for retirement, please know we can never repay you for your passion, your dedication, and, yes, your family’s Gold Star sacrifice,” Fromm said.

As for next year’s event, Olsen, the longtime family support officer for SOS, said she will hand over the reins to others.

Olsen retired at the end of last month and will be moving to Texas with her husband, retired Col. James Olsen. Their son, Army Cpl. Toby Olsen of the 25th Infantry Division, 3-509 Parachute Infantry Regiment, was killed in 2007 in an improvised explosive device blast in Iraq.

Honoring Gold Star Mothers and Families will always be a priority, Fromm emphasized.

“The Army will never forget,” Fromm said. “We will always take care of our Gold Star families.”

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History of Gold Star Mother & Gold Star Family Day

On May 28, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson approved a suggestion made by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses that, instead of wearing conventional mourning attire for relatives who had lost their lives while serving their country, American women should wear a black band on the left arm with a gilt star on the band for each member of the family who had given their life for the nation.

On June 4, 1928, 25 mothers met in Washington, D.C., to establish the national organization, American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

The organization was named after the Service Flag Gold Star that families hung in their windows in honor of their deceased service member.

The Service Flag is displayed at homes, places of business, churches, schools, etc., to indicate the number of members of the family or organizations who are serving in the armed forces or who have passed away from such service.

Service Flags have a deep Blue Star for each living member in the service and a Gold Star for each member who has paid the ultimate sacrifice to the country.

In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mothers Day.

The focus of Gold Star Mothers Day was changed in 2012 to include Gold Star Family Day.

 

 

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Category: News, Observances

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