Mothers remember fallen at post candlelight vigil
Gold Star Mother Sheila Patton (left) lights the first candle with assistance from Loreta Guzman, Survivor Outreach Services financial counselor, Tuesday night at McAuliffe Hall. SOS hosted the candlelight ceremony in honor of the many mothers who have lost a child serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- The flicker of 184 luminaries reflected off the 101st Airborne Division monument Tuesday night in remembrance of those killed in combat.

The candlelight vigil in front of McAuliffe Hall was in support of Gold Star Mother's Day. Typically observed on the last Sunday in September, Fort Campbell chose to hold a ceremony at a later date to accommodate the mothers traveling to Washington, D.C. for a national remembrance.

Gold Star Mothers is an organization open to women who lost a child in service of the U.S. Armed Forces.

This year is the first time Fort Campbell has honored these mothers in such a way, said Survivor Outreach Services Program Manager Suzy Yates.

"We wanted to come together as a community and really show our mothers that their Soldier will never be forgotten, and their sacrifice means a lot to those still serving," she said.

Fourteen Gold Star Mothers and Families attended the somber, but hopeful, ceremony. Some traveled from as far as Georgia and New Jersey.

Fort Campbell's Boy Scout troop presented a candle to each mother, and a flame was passed from each mother to the others in attendance in honor of their service member.

"This really was to celebrate their son or daughter's life, and allow them the chance to know that the community still supports them," Yates said.

The tears flowed freely after one local Gold Star Mother, Sheila Patton, came to the podium to speak about her son, Jimmy. A 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment Soldier stationed out of Fort Benning, Ga., Staff Sgt. James Patton died in an April 2010 helicopter crash while in Iraq, leaving Sheila and her husband, 3rd Brigade Combat Team Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Patton, to mourn the unexpected loss.

Jimmy seemed designed to become a Soldier from birth, Sheila explained.

"So for him to join the military, we were very honored and proud of him," she said.

After the loss, Patton became Fort Campbell's SOS senior adviser. The position allows her to help other Families in similar situations.

"I think that part of the loss of Jimmy has given me a mission to do what I'm doing right now, and that's trying to pass on a smile when all we might want to do is cry," she said. "Every day we wake up and we think, 'Oh my gosh, how are we going to get through the day'' But I believe that if Jimmy could, he'd hit me upside the head and say, 'Mom, get out of bed. You've got something to do today.'"

Patton related a story of watching an eagle flying over her house this past week, after her mother had asked Jimmy for a sign. The eagle, which is a rare sight at the Patton home, renewed the Family's hope and faith, and Patton feels the story can be an inspiration for others in the same situation.

"My boy's at peace; how can I not be at peace'" Sheila said.

The luminaries, decorated by Child, Youth and School Services children, represented the number of Gold Star Mothers who have lost a child in the Fort Campbell SOS area of operations, which includes Tennessee and much of Kentucky.

Page last updated Fri August 26th, 2011 at 11:16