Memorial Day is a federal holiday dedicated as a day of remembrance to those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. For many Americans across the country, it is a day off of work and a long weekend to enjoy barbecue or a trip to the beach. For some, it is a day with much more meaning.
Since 9/11, roughly 7,000 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives while serving in the Middle East. These fallen heroes did not serve alone. They are survived by spouses and children, who are commonly referred to as Gold Star families. To be a Gold Star family member is to be a part of a venerated community that no one wants to be a part of.
A variety of nonprofit groups throughout this country are committed to serving Gold Star families. Following my own service in the military, I have had the privilege to volunteer with some of these compassionate organizations such as Camp Hometown Heroes and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
Through both organizations, I have participated as a camp counselor for the children. There are more than 5,000 Gold Star children throughout our country. And in getting to know them, I have been able to get to know the most special group of kids I could ever imagine. Gold Star children geographically come from all parts of the country representing various demographics, yet they are all connected by a similar tragedy that transcends any of their trivial differences.
Many of these children attend these camps without knowing any of their fellow campers. They come from communities where their family is the only Gold Star family, schools where they are the only Gold Star student. But when they come together, they are able to form a common bond from which they can help each other make dramatic growths in their healing processes.
Through these experiences, I have seen what makes these Gold Star children so special: their incredible joys and enthusiasm when they sing a song together, their unbreakable friendships they remarkably make in such a short period of time, their relentless and undaunted resiliency in addressing grievances that no child should face.
I am left speechless in these moments, filled with admiration and heartbreak — when a young boy writes a note to his father on a balloon to be released in the air, wishing he could play catch one more time, and then when an older girl comes over to put her arm around the boy, comforting him as he grieves.
It is safe to say, that any type of mentorship I provide fails in comparison to the things I learn from them. Each year at these camps, I continue to see new faces and a disheartening realization sweeps over me. While there has been a lack of coverage in the media, in elections, and in our daily lives, our involvement in wars in the Middle East hasn’t ended.
. Just in the past 6 months, we’ve had a mother of two and a father of seven die in combat. While.....