USAG-HI, ohana of fallen commemorate sacrifice
October 10, 2013
Ceremony unites Gold Star mothers, family members
HONOLULU (Sept. 29, 2013) -- After a rainy beginning to the morning, Sunday, the skies over the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, here, suddenly cleared, just in time for the start of a lei of honor and remembrance ceremony at the bottom of the Punchbowl stairs.
The invocation offered by Chaplain (Col.) Peter Mueller, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, summed up, for many, the sacrifice and purpose of the Gold Star mothers and families remembrance gathering.
"These Gold Star family members will never forget the tremendous cost this day represents," said Mueller.
Families of the fallen had gathered for the annual commemorative ceremony and lei offering through the efforts of USAG-HI's Survivor Outreach Services program.
Lis Olsen heads the garrison program and is, herself, a Gold Star mother of a son, Cpl. Toby Olsen, who died while serving in Iraq in 2007.
"It's the service members' service that we are honoring, and the families grieve," Olsen said. "This offers a time for healing."
The ceremony began at the base of the Lady Columbia statue, itself a symbol of sacrifice representing all grieving mothers of the armed forces, watching over the fallen.
"Each year on this special day, families and friends come together to honor and remember their loved ones, and know that they will never be forgotten," said Col. Daniel Whitney, commander, USAG-HI.
The Gold Star symbol was first officially approved by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I when family members began displaying blue stars at homes, places of business, churches and schools to denote active duty military family members.
Gold stars were displayed to signify family members who had made the ultimate sacrifice while in service for their country.
In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother's Day. In 2012, Gold Star Mother's Day was changed to become Gold Star Family's Day.
As part of Sunday's ceremony, here, family members of the fallen led a procession up to the fountain base of the Lady Columbia, where they presented a long maile lei, along with boots from fallen family members and gold flowers during a ceremonial blessing.
As the ceremony came to a close, portions of Mueller's invocation remained fresh in the minds of those assembled.
"Bless these families," Mueller said. "Be with them in their sorrow, be with them in their solemn pride, and be with them in our gratitude for what they have given us."