By GUIDON StaffSeptember 27, 2018
Students in Chemical Basic Officer Leaders Course, class 06-18, served as escorts for an event honoring Gold Star Mothers held Sunday at Fort Leonard Wood's Memorial Grove.
The event, organized by Joday Carmack, Survivor Outreach Services support coordinator, consisted of a tour of Memorial Grove, a concert by the 399th Army Band in the World War II Chapel and dinner in the World War II mess hall.
Capt. Meaghan Kelly, 84th Chemical Battalion CBOLC small group instructor, said the class chose this particular project due to one of their classmates being a Gold Star family member.
At the age of 13, 2nd Lt. Anthony Larkin's father, a National Guard Soldier attached to the 3/116th Armor Cavalry, passed away. Larkin said he is grateful for the opportunity to help other Gold Star families and said he didn't fully recognize the impact these events have on the families.
"As the 399th (began playing) the woman (in front of me) began to cry and leaned her head on her husband's shoulder for comfort," Larkin said. "I looked to my peers for guidance, and a peer gave me some tissues to offer to the mother. I tapped her on the shoulder to offer the tissues, and when she turned all I could see was the pain and sorrow in her eyes. It was the same pain I saw in my own mother's eyes as she was thinking how to tell me my father passed away."
Larkin added, "This moment was pivotal for me. I truly understood the weight of the losses and the tolls it had on those families. To me, this event wasn't just to be reminded of the tragic moments but also to recall the good times we tend to overlook, and I am grateful for this experience."
Kelly said she is glad the class chose to work the event.
"It is easy for us to lose concept of the bigger picture of why we do what we do. This is especially true for students as they get caught up in the academic and physical requirements of the Basic Officer Leaders Course," Kelly said.
She added, "This event was humbling, and I'm proud of them for the amount of grace and professionalism they undertook it with. Occasions like this remind students to take their training seriously, because when they leave here people and families will be depending on them."
Carmack agreed with Kelly and said she enjoyed watching the Soldiers working with each family. She added that the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
"This is invaluable to survivors," Carmack said. "A vital part of the grieving process is telling their story. And many feel that those closest to them don't want to hear it anymore so they suppress the feelings. But the escorts provided a new, very important outlet for these emotions and allowed the survivors to recall memories, relive good things, vent out bad things and left the survivor with a sense of peace and comfort knowing their loved one was honored by not only the group but the individual escort."