By ADRIENNE ANDERSONJuly 25, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga. (July 24, 2013) -- Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, spoke to the Families and friends of eight fallen service members Friday at the Survivor Outreach Services Center during a Hall of Heroes ceremony. SOS hosts Hall of Heroes ceremonies for Families of fallen service members to post photographs on the walls inside of the SOS center.
Harold Braden, father of Capt. Michael Braden, said the ceremony was beautiful and a great way to remember his son.
The plaque for Harold Braden's son and the seven others placed on the wall brought the current total of plaques to 108, said Ron Smith, SOS coordinator.
"It's a way of honoring him for his service," Harold Braden said. "I spent a long time in the service myself, moving all over the place, we had no home base for a long time -- but this gives us some place local that we can go to see his memory and be there for him."
His wife, Diana, and several friends who came to support of the couple, attended the ceremony.
Also in attendance were Toni Gross, president of the American Gold Star Mothers chapter in Tampa Bay, Fla., and her husband, Craig Gross. Their son, Cpl. Frank Gross, was killed in action in Afghanistan in July 2011.
"(The ceremony) has a deep meaning … with Frank's roots here at Fort Benning -- it's a place for us to come and see our son's pictures on the wall," she said. "This is a solemn place … and it's a special place."
She wanted to reach out to other Gold Star Families in the local area to start a chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers here, she said. Although her Family received assistance and care from the Army and their assigned casualty assistance officer after her son was killed, there wasn't a civilian network they could lean on.
"We decided instead of whining about it, we were going to do something about it," she said. "So I contacted the American Gold Star Mothers in Washington, D.C., I said 'What can I do to get a chapter started?'"
As a result, there are now 50 Gold Star Families in the Tampa Bay area involved in that chapter, Toni Gross said.
"I am more than willing to come up here (to Fort Benning) and meet with Gold Star Moms to help them and encourage them to get a chapter started here," she said.
Fort Benning SOS reaches out to Families of fallen Soldiers in Northern Florida, Southern Georgia and Eastern Alabama. For information about SOS or to have your fallen Soldier's photo placed in the Hall of Heroes, call 706-545-2989.