FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 3, 2016) -- Jennifer Hobdy said her sons were 4 and 7 when her husband, Staff Sgt. Jerry Lewis Hobdy, died after being diagnosed with a brain tumor while serving in Germany.

She said the question, "When is Daddy coming home?" was probably the hardest to answer for her children, but that she dropped out of school to raise her sons and taught them the significance of his sacrifice.

Her story of strength and perseverance was among several shared May 27 morning after the Fort Rucker Memorial Day ceremony during the Gold Star Family reception held in the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.

Gold Star Family members are identified as those whose parents, siblings, spouses and other loved ones died while in service to the nation. Elton Norman, Fort Rucker Survivor Outreach Services, said the organization offers support and services to more than 400 Gold Star Family members throughout the Wiregrass area.

He said the reception was one of several opportunities available for Gold Star Family members to connect with others within the Army family. A Survivors and Fallen Heroes 5K recently held at the post was another example of such opportunities.

"These events are important because they are a reminder that Gold Star survivors are forever linked to the military family. They're forever a part," he said. "We can't put a time limit on their grief, but we can put in place programs and services that can possibly help."

Donna Hallock said her brother, Sgt. 1st Class William T. Butts, died Feb. 27, 1991, when his UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was shot down over Iraq. He and four crew members died while three others were taken as prisoners of war.

Hallock said she has maintained contact with one POW who was a gunner on the same aircraft as her brother, who was an aircraft mechanic.

"I love when there's a great crowd at these events because it lets me know that they keep (the sacrifice) alive," she said.

Tim Laster, director of the Fort Rucker Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said the reception was one small way Fort Rucker could thank Gold Star family members for all they've given to the country.

"Any chance we get to invite them and say hello and thank them for all they've done is a great thing," he said.

Hobdy said losing a loved one in any instance can be a reminder that no one lives forever, but also that while a person is living, he or she can make the most out of their lives. Her husband served in two wars within his nearly 30 years of service, 22 of which were in the Army and six in the Marine Corps.

She herself is a breast cancer survivor. One of her sons, Eukiston, joined the Army and has served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Her other son, Michael, recently graduated from Enterprise State Community College.

"As a military wife and parent, you have to have a backbone, and be a mother and a supporter. When my husband died, I still had to be those things," she said. "Through all of this, and even in the military, we gained strength. I'm very proud of my children."