Long after the final shots of salute have echoed over their son’s or daughter’s graves and the mournful notes of Taps have faded, the mothers of young men and women who died in combat carry the memories of their children.
Mother’s Day for moms like these are bittersweet, watching other families celebrate, bombarded with ads for floral tributes they know will never come.
Now the country is recognizing the sacrifice of moms with a Gold Star Mother’s Day. One of many such events across the nation, a small crowd gathered Sunday, Sept. 27, at Tampa’s Veterans Memorial Park to pay tribute to these women whose children paid the ultimate price.
“I stand before you in awe and appreciation of those brave men and women who did not let the fear of death stop them from enlisting and serving in the armed forces so I can live in the land of the free,” said Kelly Kowall, whose son, U.S. Army Spc. Corey Kowall, died in Afghanistan on Sept. 20, 2009, while serving with the 82nd Airborne. Kowall founded My Warrior’s Place in his honor. It is a Ruskin-based recuperative center where veterans, service people and their families can heal their minds and spirits in a relaxed environment.
“I know the pain and anguish you feel when someone you love dies,” Kowall said. “It tears your heart into pieces. It punches you in the gut and stomps on your soul, and the greater the love, the greater the pain. I can’t fathom a greater pain but I wouldn’t want it another way. I wouldn’t want the death not to matter. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
Kowall continued, “My scars are proof to me and the world of the love I had for my son and others I have known who have died. If that scar is deep, you can bet so was the love. Scars are a part of life. Scars are also a sign of courage. Scars prove you took a chance, looked fear in the eye, and for that second, you didn’t blink.”
Beating back a cold, Mike O’Dell, president of the Veterans Council of Hillsborough County, made a point of making it to the event under the sweltering September sun. He wished others had done the same.
“I am disappointed we have so few people here. So many people take their lives for granted but it’s because of the sacrifices of all these people, of their families, and what they have gone through to protect us here in the United States,” said O’Dell. “I don’t understand why [more] people don’t support families like this.”
Founded in 1928, American Gold Star Mothers Inc. assists families who have lost children in the line of duty during service with the U.S. armed forces. It provides emotional support to members, volunteers with veterans and veterans hospitals, and fosters patriotism and respect for service members. A joint congressional resolution first designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day in 1936, a holiday that has been observed each year by a presidential proclamation.
“The proud patriots of our Armed Forces never serve alone. Standing with each service member are parents, spouses, children, siblings, and friends, providing support and love and helping uphold the ideals that bind our nation together,” said President Barack Obama in a proclamation read aloud at the event. “While most Americans may never fully comprehend the price paid by those who gave their last full measure of devotion, families of the fallen know it intimately and without end. Their sleepless nights allow for our peaceful rest, and the folded flags they hold dear are what enable ours to wave. The depth of their sorrow is immeasurable, and we are forever indebted to them for all they have given for us.”
For more information on the Tampa chapter of Gold Star Mothers, visit www.agsmtampa.org.
For more information on My Warrior’s Place, visit the group’s website, www.mywarriorsplace.org, or call 813-321-0880.
For more information about Veterans Memorial Park and Museum, call 813-744-5502 or Hillsborough County Department of Veterans Services at 813-246-3170.
Birth of the gold star
During the early days of World War I, a blue star was used to represent each person, man or woman in the military service of the United States. As the war progressed and men were killed in combat, others wounded and died of their wounds or disease, there came about the accepted usage of the gold star.
This gold star was substituted and superimposed upon the blue star in such a manner as to entirely cover it. The idea of the gold star was to honor the person for his supreme sacrifice in offering for his country the last full measure of devotion, and the pride of the family in this sacrifice, rather than the sense of personal loss represented by mourning symbols.
On June 4, 1928, a group of 25 mothers in Washington, D.C., met to make plans to organize a national group to be known as American Gold Star Mothers Inc., a nondenominational, nonpolitical and nonprofit organization. On Jan. 5, 1929, the organization was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia.
The charter was kept open for 90 days. At the end of this time, they had a membership of 65, which included mothers throughout the U.S.
There were many small groups of Gold Star Mothers functioning under local and state charters. When these groups learned of a national organization with representation in nearly every state in the Union, they wished to affiliate with the larger group and many did so. This group was composed of women who had lost a son or daughter in World War I.
During the 1942 National Convention of the AGSM, the membership was opened to mothers who had lost a son or daughter in World War II, and was again opened after the Korean conflict.
Source: Gold Star Mothers Inc.