When President Barack Obama proclaimed Sept. 25, 2016 as Gold Star Mothers and Families Day, he wrote "less than one percent of our Nation wear the uniform, but all of us have an obligation to acknowledge the losses endured by Gold Star Mothers and Families and to fill the painful absence of their loved ones with our profound gratitude."
Fort Jackson and the South Carolina National Guard honored those families from across the Palmetto State with a solemn event at the Lace House in the S.C. Governor's Mansion Complex Sept. 24.
"We are honoring Gold Star family members, specifically mothers," said Leslie Smith, Fort Jackson's Survivor Outreach Services coordinator. "This event is held nationally so we can show honor to our family members."
The event has taken place on the last Sunday of September since June 23, 1936, when the 74th U.S. Congress designated the day in honor of Gold Star Mothers. The day was expanded to include families since the loss of a loved one impacts the whole family.
The term "Gold Star" began during World War I when American families displayed flags in homes, businesses, schools and churches with a gold star for each loved one lost in military service.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, in a state proclamation said, "By assisting veterans and Gold Star families, fostering patriotism and continued service and promoting peace and good will throughout the world, Gold Star mothers inspire us with deep devotion to family and country."
Smith said it's important for these families to know the Army hasn't forgotten about them.
"It's easy to do that as we go daily on and say, 'That's behind us,'" Smith said. "But what we don't want our families to think is that we forgot about them. They are Service members who have served this country and we should continue to honor them at all costs.
"We owe them that honor, we owe them that respect. They deserve to be remembered for the simple fact that their son or daughter or husband lost their life serving our country."
While the South Carolina Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston was unable to attend the event, his wife, Barbara, said the sacrifices of Gold Star families are constantly on their minds.
"Your sacrifices are what makes our country great," she said. "I can't tell you how much you mean to me and my husband.
"I think of you when I look up at the stars. I think of you as I go about the day. I think of all military and the great things they've done for our country."
For Lt. Col. Kenneth Snow, with the South Carolina Army National Guard, the day held special significance because two Soldiers under his command were killed in Afghanistan. He spoke to the families about how the losses of Staff Sgt. James Bullard and Spc. David Leimbach profoundly affected his life.
The Soldiers were "typical of the dedication to their families, to the country and our way of life."
Each Gold Star mother present had a yellow corsage pinned on them, while families were given a yellow flower during the event that included music by the 282nd Army Band's Brass Quintet, and releasing of gold balloons.
"A lot of memories came back of my husband," Gold Star family member Sheila Lemons said after receiving a corsage and releasing a gold balloon into the bright Carolina afternoon.
"I think it's very special and very touching that this day is dedicated to" Gold Star families.
Fort Jackson and the SCNG work every day to help surviving family members.
Fort Jackson holds a "Run for the Fallen" each year that has Soldiers running for those "who have also served," and the Gold Star Mothers event "specifically catered to the family members," Smith said.
"Our program primarily does in the long term what casualty assistance does," Smith said. "Once a casualty assistance officer has finished his job, SOS is assigned to that client."
Survivor Outreach Services not only holds events to honor surviving family members, they offer financial support, and bereavement counseling and help surviving children get the entitlements they deserve.