Gold Star Mothers, Families gather for remembrance

| September 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
Mothers and families of fallen Soldiers climb the steps to ceremonial display memorial boots of their loved ones during the Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Ceremony held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater, Sunday.

Mothers and families of fallen Soldiers climb the steps to ceremonial display memorial boots of their loved ones during the Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Ceremony held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater, Sunday.

Story and photos by
Christine Cabalo
Staff Writer
HONOLULU — Letting the silence speak volumes, family and community members gathered to honor the fallen during the Gold Star Mothers and Families Day remembrance ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Sunday.

Col. Stephen Dawson, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, speaks during the Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Ceremony.

Col. Stephen Dawson, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, speaks during the Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Ceremony.

“Today we pause to honor those mothers and families who have been forever changed through the ultimate sacrifice of their loved ones in defense of the nation,” said Col. Stephen Dawson, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

Members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division; senior leaders of USAG-HI; and the Kapolei High School Marine Corps JROTC participated to offer their support to families and the Survivor Outreach Service staff.

USAG-HI has observed the day with a ceremony featuring families of the fallen since 2012.

Mothers and family members of fallen Soldiers stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during the 5th annual Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Ceremony, Sept. 25. The families carried boots decorated with their loved one's picture to the base of the Lady Columbia statue at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater.

Mothers and family members of fallen Soldiers stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during the 5th annual Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Ceremony.

Gold Star Mothers
Dawson spoke about the history of Gold Star Mothers, a practice that started during World War I. He described how families would display flags in their window, which showed stars representing each member of their family in the armed services. Blue stars represented living relatives who were serving, and gold stars represented those who had fallen in battle.

Congress designated the last Sunday of September as Gold Star Mother’s Day in 1936. The day was then expanded to honor Gold Star families of the fallen in 2012.

Families of fallen Soldiers gather at the Lady Columbia statue at the top of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater, Sept. 25. They displayed combat boots with pictures of their fallen loved ones for the Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Ceremony.

Families of fallen Soldiers gather at the Lady Columbia statue at the top of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater.

The observance
During the ceremony, Col. John Peck, senior chaplain of U.S. Army Hawaii, offered prayers for the fallen. The audience also took a moment of silence to pay tribute to the loved ones who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

The ceremony ended with mothers and family members traveling up to the base of the Lady Columbia, where a maile lei and boots decorated with pictures of the fallen Soldiers were displayed near the fountain.

The area was fitting since the quote near the statue comes from an 1864 letter of condolence President Abraham Lincoln had written to Lydia Parker Bixby during the U.S. Civil War. At that time, Bixby was thought to have lost five sons during the war.

Dorothy Lukeala and her surviving son, hold a pair of combat boots decorated with pictures of her deceased son, Sgt. Joshua Lukeala.

Dorothy Lukeala and her surviving son, hold a pair of combat boots decorated with pictures of her deceased son, Sgt. Joshua Lukeala.

Wearing a memorial bracelet with her son’s name on it, Dorothy Lukeala was one of several family members who attended the ceremony. Her son Sgt. Joshua Lukeala, died in combat in June 2010. His death was one of the first casualties of Soldiers in Afghanistan for her village of Yigo, Guam.

Lukeala said she appreciates how the event and the Gold Star Family group offers support as they heal from losing their loved ones. She was at the ceremony with her surviving son, Anthony, who is also currently serving with 25th ID.

“Having Survivor Outreach Services there to help families, so their loved ones are not forgotten, is very comforting,” she said. “With me as a mother, I am glad my son is not forgotten or his sacrifice and service.”

The annual ceremony allows the families the chance to reflect and gather together to help each other in the healing process, said Catherine Ignacio, SOS coordinator. Ignacio, who is also a Gold Star family member (she lost her spouse), said the ceremony and other events help remind families they are not alone in their grief. SOS supports them in their healing process.

HONOLULU- Lei decorate a pair of combat boots honoring fallen Soldier Spec. Kevin Wessel where his picture and several other fallen were honored during the 5th annual Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Ceremony, Sept. 25.

HONOLULU- Lei decorate a pair of combat boots honoring fallen Soldier Spec. Kevin Wessel where his picture and several other fallen were honored during the 5th annual Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Ceremony, Sunday.

She said the public can help by offering its assistance, too. Any survivors, spouses, siblings, battle buddies or other loved ones can contact the SOS office.

“As a spouse, for me, the program allows us to continue to be connected to the military, which is what we all want to find support and resources,” she said. “As the coordinator for the program, it’s great knowing families have a place to go to ask questions. The program reaches to help in whatever part of the healing process someone is going through.”

Survivor Outreach Services

Contact SOS at Schofield Barracks by calling 655-7171.

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Category: Community, Observances

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