By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 29, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker honored Gold Star families with a service to help ensure their fallen loved ones are never forgotten.
A Gold Star Mothers and Family Day service was held at the main post chapel Sept. 25 where senior leaders, along with Soldiers, family members and friends came together to pay respect those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation, as well as honor the families who were left behind.
"Tonight we honor those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of freedom, for the sake of duty and for the sake of others, and we honor you, our Gold Star mothers and families, for the tremendous sacrifice you've made for liberty and for the cause against tyranny," said Chaplain (Col.) Dean Bonura, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker garrison chaplain, during the service. "We enjoy the blessings of peace and liberty because of others -- men and women who stand ready to protect our way of life. Those whom we remember today were that caliber of individual."
Chaplain (Capt.) Shawn Droge, 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment chaplain, also spoke during the service and shared his experience with loss and grief, and how he was able to get through one of the most difficult times in his life -- the loss of his brother.
"Is it OK to be angry? Is it OK to be upset, to be hurt, to feel pain, frustrated and confused, and to not know what to do?" he asked. "I think it is, absolutely, because God, he understands, he loves us and he is there for us. He allows us to feel, allows us to be human, and to go through those emotions and work it out."
Droge said that through learning to love God and learning of his love for us can help through the grieving process, and comfort can be found in places that one might least expect. For Droge, it was through his new job at the time as a community counselor.
"Here I was a new counselor for a week and this happened to my brother," he said. "What I noticed is through that next month, I had so many people come see me for grief counseling … and for some reason God sent them to me. I realized that the more I helped people, the more I started to understand."
People seek the comfort of others who have been through similar situations, said the 1-223rd chaplain. And that's OK.
"I think that's why you come to events like this, because you've all been through this, at one point or another," he said. "Sometimes it's difficult to understand why things happen. We still can't do this alone. We need God and we need each other."
Through that understanding is where people can hope to find comfort, he said, and part of that comfort is to know that the sacrifices that were made were not made in vain, added Bonura.
"God understands your sacrifice," said the USAACE chaplain. "He understands the motivations of men and women who volunteer in service, volunteer to serve a cause larger than themselves and who are willing to lay down their lives for it.
"They did it freely without coercion or necessity, and sadly their lives were taken on the field of battle and we miss them," he continued. "Nevertheless, we will never forget them or their sacrifice. Their sacrifice counted. It mattered -- it made a difference."
After the service, a luminary service was held where family members lit a luminary in honor of their fallen Soldier -- just one way to help ensure that those who were lost are not forgotten.
"I know that you continue to grieve the loss of your loved one -- they gave everything," said Bonura. "Know that all of us share in your grief. We grieve with you. They gave their lives freely, but that act of love matters. We are here to honor you because you share in the fruits of sacrifice."