By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 28, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. - For many Gold Star Family members, there is no better way to honor their fallen service members than by remembering the sacrifice that they gave in service to the nation.
Fort Rucker honored that sacrifice during Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day Sept. 24 with a luminary service at the Main Post Chapel where Fort Rucker senior leadership, family members and friends came to honor not only those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service, but the fami-lies who were left behind.
"Each year in, conjunction with the Fort Rucker Chaplain's Corps, we host this event and recog-nize our surviving family members and their fallen service members," said Cheareice Thomas, Fort Rucker Survivor Outreach Services coordinator. "Those loved ones paid the ultimate sacri-fice while bravely serving in our armed services."
During the service, Chaplain (Maj.) Linda Lesane, Air Traffic Services Command brigade chap-lain, delivered a pastoral message to remind family members that they're still part of the Army family.
"We want to let the Gold Star mothers and families know that you are not alone and you are not forgotten," she said. "Today, we celebrate and honor you for the sacrifices you've made and con-tinue to make, for you are a vital part of the military family and our nation."
Lesane wanted to remind family members that it's alright for them to grieve for their loved ones, because too often people find themselves trying to hold back. But she said grief comes with a wide range of emotions with different responses, including reduced concentration, a sense of numbness, disruptive sleep patterns, a change in eating habits and a roller coaster of emotional energy.
"As you continue to treasure the memories of your loved ones, it's quite natural and normal to get choked up, smile or have tears suddenly run down your face," said the ATSCOM chaplain. "Sometimes grief is unwittingly discouraged because we, as a society, are ill prepared to deal with loss. We are taught to acquire things, but not to lose them. We mean well, but sometimes we may say things that might not be too helpful."
One of those things people often say when trying to console is to tell people not to cry, she said, when in fact crying is a natural reaction to loss that should be embraced.
"Saying don't cry is saying not to feel, and sometimes that's telling people they have to grieve alone," said Lesane. "People also say to give it time, but sometimes time itself does not heal -- it's what we do with that time. Oftentimes, people try to stay busy, which is a distraction, when at the end of the day, you still feel a hole in your heart from your heart. What we ought to do is take direct action to address the pain that caused our loss."
Those who suffer loss need to have the opportunity to find closure, she said, and there is no time limit for how long that may take. The myriad of emotions people feel while going through the grieving process is a normal reaction that is just part of the path that leads to recovery, she added.
"That includes accepting your right to feel sad from time to time, and talking about your feelings regardless of how others may react," said the chaplain. "It's healthy and normal to talk about missing your loved ones, and there isn't a time frame for it."
That process of talking about their loved one gives family members like Hugh and Lesa Neenan, who lost their son, Spc. Brendan Neenan, a means to keep the memory of their Soldier alive.
"To be able to be here tonight and have Brendan remembered -- there really are no words," said Lesa. "Just the fact that no one forgets his sacrifice and the fact that he was here (is comfort-ing.)"
Brenden was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and was deployed to Jelawar, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when he was killed by an improvised explosive device June 7, 2010.
"He was so great. He was so sweet and he was so much fun," she said. "He had come home two weeks before it happened, but we had the best time for those two weeks."
It's the ability and opportunity that families have to be able to share stories of their loved ones that Lesane said honors those who were lost.
"Gold Star mothers and Gold Star families, we are with you to support you because your loved ones gave their all," said the chaplain. "From their ultimate sacrifice, we have the freedoms and the opportunity to live in this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."