By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (Benning)October 3, 2018
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Oct. 3, 2018) - Several Gold Star mothers gathered Sept. 30 at the Benning Club at Fort Benning, Georgia, for a Gold Star Mothers' Day brunch event.
Gold Star Mothers' Day is a nationally recognized observance that takes place the last Sunday of September to honor mothers of fallen service members, and Fort Benning's Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) held a brunch for 15 local Gold Star Mothers and their Families for the seventh year.
Brig. Gen. David M. Hodne, the U.S. Infantry School commandant at the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, made the opening remarks.
"We're gathered here to honor you, to remember your loved ones, and rejoice in their service," Hodne said. "Everyone in this room understands their dedication, their purpose, their sense of duty, their love of country. And donning a uniform and committing to serve, we understand adhering to and living up to these principles comes with a great cost. However, this selflessness - your selflessness - makes this great nation possible."
Megan Baumgartner, the SOS coordinator, said that Gold Star Families may not need or want their services immediately - services that include financial counseling, support coordination and more - but SOS is always available.
"We're here for Families when they're ready for us," said Baumgartner. "We are the long-term liaisons between the military and these Family members. And if they need that right away, we're here immediately. If they need us 10 years from now, we're here then."
Patricia Miers was one of the mothers who spoke during the event. She recounted the life of her son Sgt. 1st Class David Salie from his birth in Columbus, through childhood and high school and JROTC. She said he was "a true patriot" and that he joined the Army the day after he graduated high school. His military career included jumping into Panama as part of Operation Just Cause. She recounted both his military career and how his own Family grew throughout his career.
Salie was assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Kelley Hill at Fort Benning.
"He taught the men at the brigade everything he knew, which was plenty," said Miers of her son. "The unit was exemplary, ready to be deployed because of Sgt. 1st Class David Salie. At least that's what I'm told."
She recounted the last time she talked to him, that he died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and how she learned the news.
Following the formal portion of the ceremony, the mothers in attendance took a group photograph with Maneuver Center of Excellence and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning leadership.
Throughout the informal portions of the event, the Family members in attendance, the leadership, and SOS personnel talked with one another. One of the Gold Star mothers in attendance was Melanie Piland, mother of Marine Cpl. Corey Tanner. Piland's son was deployed in 2007 to Iraq with the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, based out of Camp Pendleton, California. He was 21 years old and married when he was killed by a roadside improvised explosive device in Iraq.
Piland said she appreciates how SOS put her in contact with other Family members who have experienced similar losses.
"We're taught to grow up, have kids, raise them, then let them go out into the world," said Piland. "But what happens when they stop being in the world. And all of a sudden you have to bury them, and your birthday presents are bouquets on a grave. That's not something you're taught to deal with.
"Nobody tells us that it's okay unless it's someone who's been through it," continued Piland. "Then we can look back and say, 'They're further along, they're still here, there's a chance, there's hope.'"
"They're not alone," said Baumgartner. "There are other mothers out there. How they feel, what they think, what they've experienced and how they're living their lives today: It's absolutely normal, it's typical. And they'll have someone who will hold their hand, who will hug them."
Piland said that despite the loss she experienced, she still supports the military.
"Regardless of what I've gone through, they're still here for me," she said. "We should be there for them."
To learn more about Survivor Outreach Services at Fort Benning, visit the "Related Links" section on this page.