Gold Star Flag Ceremony honors fallen heroes and their Families
September 24, 2010
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Three local Families were inducted into a "club" they did not choose or ever expect to belong amidst tears, words of encouragement, promises of hope and support.
The Families of Pvts. 1st Class John Andrade, Diego Montoya and Marine Sgt. Jose Luis Saenz were welcomed into the Gold Star Mothers with a Gold Star Flag Ceremony Sept. 18.
Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Families include immediate Family members of a uniformed service member who died in a combat zone.
Hosted by the Blue Star Mothers of America San Antonio, Chapter Four, and the Army Community Service Survivor Outreach Services Program, each Family was presented a gold star banner during the ceremony.
A Blue Star Mother or Stepmother has a son or daughter currently serving or honorably discharged from the Armed Forces of the United States.
Col. Mary Garr, 502nd Mission Support Group commander began the ceremony with "We know you have been through tremendous loss and sacrifice. We want to ensure you we will continue to support you."
Lt. Gen. Guy Swan III, commander U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) shared his thoughts.
"Today's event is not a memorial service and clearly is not a funeral. It is meaningful we remember those who have gone beyond in defense of our nation; but, it is also a day for you, those who have to carry on. It is important that you understand that you are always a part of the Army Family."
Maj. Gen Mark Graham, U.S. Army Forces Command deputy Chief of Staff, was not able to attend in person but sent a video message.
Graham said, "We too are a Gold Star Family. We lost our son in 2004 in Iraq and another son to suicide in 2003. All of us are involved in a 'club' we didn't want to be in. But we hold ourselves up, go shoulder to shoulder through this and we will take it one day at a time."
Guest speaker Donna Engeman, who lost her husband Chief Warrant Officer 4 John W. Engeman in May 2006, encouraged fellow survivors.
"We are kindred spirits, walking together on a path that was not of our choosing. Today our duty, our task is to ensure that these Soldiers, their service and sacrifice and their names are remembered."
Included in the morning's ceremony were guest speakers offering support and encouragement, poetry readings and comfort through songs performed by Grady Peavy, Fort Sam Houston Mortuary Affairs Coordinator and Air Force Airman Geoffrey Stirrups.
Felicia Hilliard, SOS program manager said, "We think it is very important to come together as an Army Family to support the survivors of our fallen Soldiers."
For more information on Fort Sam Houston's Survivor Outreach Program call 221-1841 or 221-0275.