Gold Star Mothers, Families honored at ceremony

| September 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

McKenna Scobie, widow of Hawaii Army National Guard Sgt. Drew Scobie, leads a procession up the steps of the Honolulu Memorial, Sept. 24, at the Gold Star Mothers and Families Ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. (U.S. Army photo by Karen A. Iwamoto, Oahu Publications)

Story and photos by
Karen A. Iwamoto
Staff Writer

HONOLULU — Community members and military leaders gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as Punchbowl Cemetery, here, on Sept. 24, to observe Gold Star Mothers and Families Day and to honor the survivors of those who gave their lives in service to this country.

Boots representing some of those service members, including the five 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers who died when their UH-60 Black Hawk crashed off Kaena Point in August, were displayed at the base of the Honolulu Memorial.

Above them, at the top of the memorial staircase, in the Court of Honor, loomed the statue of Lady Columbia. Inscribed just below her was a passage from a letter Abraham Lincoln sent to a mother who was thought to have lost five sons during the Civil War:

The solemn pride
That must be yours
To have laid
So costly a sacrifice
Upon the altar
Of freedom

“It’s fitting that we’re here on this last Sunday in September … to pause and commemorate those mothers and families who have been forever changed through the ultimate sacrifice of their loved ones in defense of our nation,” said U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Commander Col. Stephen Dawson. “This is the sixth annual USAG-HI Gold Star Ceremony at Punchbowl – an event which has become the garrison’s most solemn and hallowed ceremony.

Loved ones place boots representing fallen service members at the base of the Lady Columbia statue at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Sept. 24, as part of the Gold Star Mothers and Families Ceremony. (U.S. Army photo by Karen A. Iwamoto, Oahu Publications)

“Each year on this day, families and friends come together here and at similar ceremonies across the nation to honor these special families and to remember their loved ones and to know that they will never be forgotten,” he continued. “Our Gold Star Mothers and Families are very, very special and we will always honor you and your loved ones.”

In 1963, the U.S. Congress designated Gold Star Mothers Day as the last Sunday in September; it was officially expanded to include Gold Star Families in 2012.

Although Gold Star Mothers and Families Day is a day of national observance, and the sacrifice service members make are on behalf of the entire nation, the pain of their loss is personal to their loved ones.
Gold Star Mother Karen Tao, a neonatal intensive care nurse, remembered the day she found out her son, Hawaii Army National Guard Sgt. Drew Scobie, had died in service to the nation.

She was driving to work, she said, when her boyfriend called and told her something had happened to her son.

“I thought it was … my youngest son,” Tao recalled. “But he said no, your other son. And then I knew it was Drew.”

As she drove back home, Tao said she remembered praying her son was still alive.

“I was praying to God, just let him be injured. I don’t care what injury. I would take care of him forever because I was a nurse,” she said. “Needless to say, when I drove up (to my home) I knew that wasn’t the case, and we had lost Drew.”

Gold Star Mother Karen Tao speaks at the Gold Star Mothers and Families Ceremony, Sept. 24, about her son, Hawaii National Guard Sgt. Drew Scobie, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Karen A. Iwamoto, Oahu Publications)

Scobie had been returning from a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan in January 2014 when the aircraft he was in crashed.

“I grew up military and my history is military,” Tao said. “Before I was born my grandfather fought for the British in North Africa during World War II. And then my father and stepfather were both in the Air Force and went to Vietnam. They served tours over there but came home. My stepson joined the Air Force and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he came home, too.

“But Drew isn’t coming home. And I knew that when he left … there was a remote chance … but because everyone else had come home, I was always telling myself that he was coming home, too.”

Attendees of the Gold Star Mothers and Families Ceremony at the National Memorial of the Pacific pause during the playing of taps to honor fallen service members and their families, Sept. 24. (U.S. Army photo by Karen A. Iwamoto, Oahu Publications)

Over the past three years since his death, she said that she has experienced breakthroughs and setbacks, moments that were bittersweet.

“For the past 35 years, I’ve been a neonatal intensive care nurse and over the years I’ve been with families who have lost children. … I always thought I knew what they felt, but today I can truly say I can relate to those families,” she said. “So in a small way, Drew’s passing has helped me be a better person, a better nurse and a better manager.”

Her story was followed by a moment of silence to recognize the sacrifices made by all Gold Star Families.
Then, Scobie’s widow, McKenna Panui-Scobie, and their two children, assisted by the Kapolei High School JROTC, led a procession up the stairs of the Honolulu Monument, where they laid a lei at the base of the Lady Columbia. The rest of the guests, including military leaders and other Gold Star Families, followed, some carrying the boots of their fallen service members.

The ceremony concluded with the playing of taps as those gathered took one more moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who had died and the loved ones they left behind.

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