JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 9, 2015) -- "It's supposed to be your children burying you, not the other way around," said Brenda Cox, of Killeen, Texas.
Cox is part of unique group of parents who share the enormous burden of losing their child. She became a "Gold Star Mother" when the Army presented her with a Gold Star lapel button after the loss of her son, Pfc. Richard Allen DeWater, in 2009.
The Gold Star has symbolized the loss of a service member since World War I. In 1936, the Congress designated the last Sunday of September as a national commemoration for Americans to honor the continued service of Gold Star mothers. This year, the Army and nation will honor and remember the surviving mothers of fallen Soldiers on Sept. 27.
"It's important to recognize Gold Star mothers on this special day, not only for their loss, but for their commitment to the Army Family," said Hal Snyder, chief of U.S. Army Installation Management Command's Wounded and Fallen Support Services Office.
"Gold Star mothers are the bedrocks of support and comfort to fellow survivors, setting examples of inspiration and resilience with those who share the unique bond of a military loss," he explained.
Cox continues her son's legacy of service by remaining connected to other Gold Star Family members. She credits Survivor Outreach Services, an official program in the IMCOM's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate, for providing her the support she needed after her son's death.
"Survivor Outreach Services has made it easy for me to talk about the loss of my son," she said.
She now "pays it forward," by providing that same support to other parents who have lost a child.
"I have friends who know that I am a Gold Star mother. When their friends lose a child, they will reach out to me for comfort and support," she added.
Jennifer Owens, of Eddy, Texas, shares a similar sentiment of remaining connected to the survivor community.
Owens is the mother of Spc. Ember Marie Alt, who died in 2013. Owens, like Cox, wears the Gold Star lapel button -- a symbol of honor which she did not initially know about despite coming from a military background.
"I did not know what the Gold Star was until I got that knock on the door about Ember's loss," she said.
"I wear my Gold Star pin with pride and honor but also with a heavy heart."
One afternoon, Owens sat on her home porch as she noticed a woman walking up to her. The woman saw the Gold Star service flag -- another symbol of honor dating back to the first World War -- on display in her window. She held up her wrist to show Owens her engraved bracelet dedicated to her fallen child. The Gold Star mothers immediately hugged and cried.
"I use any opportunity that I have now to educate and let people know what the Gold Star stands for," Owens said.
U.S. Army Family & Morale, Welfare and Recreation
U.S. Army Installation Management Command
Army.mil: Survivor Outreach Services
Symbols of Honor Worn by Surviving Military Families