An emotional day of remembrance was held Sept. 30 -- Gold Star Mothers and Families Day.

Blue Star Mothers have at least one child in the military, Gold Star Mothers have lost one or more
of their daughters or sons to combat.

As part of the national push to commemorate the lives of lost military members, a ceremony was
held in Columbia's Lace House in the Governor's mansion complex.

Gov. Henry McMaster donated the use of the facility for the event. Both he and President Donald Trump endorsed proclamations to honor families of the fallen Sunday.

Bouquets were handed out to Gold Star Mothers and families, and balloons were released in honor
of those lost. Before they were sent up with the wind, family members wrote their loved ones messages on "gold" stars they tied to the strings.

"We've got to tell the story … to the next generation of Americans," said Maj. Gen. Roy Van McCarty, deputy adjutant general for South Carolina. McCarty overseas the day-to-day operations of the South Carolina National Guard and ensures the upkeep of its readiness and training.

He emphasized that since today's youth will someday serve, it's not enough to put the information into history books and museums. The memories must be passed on directly.

Gold Star recipients recited poems to pay tribute to the ultimate sacrifice their Soldiers made.

"In view of eternity, I didn't have you long enough," said Deborah Whitsitt, president of the South Carolina Gold Star Mothers. She lost her son.

"In your freedom, you chose to serve … you gave for us to be free," she continued. "This day is for you … I love you every day, and I miss you every day."

"I don't feel like a star, and I don't want to be a star," said Fort Jackson's Survivor Outreach Support Coordinator Kelly Estep in her poem. "Saying your name gives me purpose," she went on. "I am strong as gold, and you are my star."

The afternoon left many in tears, but the bravery of the men and women who lost their lives was revered.

"(Gold Star Families) really stand for all the good this great country is about," McCarty said.

He emphasized that Gold Star Mothers and Families Day "is not just a one-day event." These individuals should always be remembered.

Support from friends, family and peers is what helps some get through the pain, said guest speaker Kimberly Richardson, founder of Widows of Opportunity, a support group for grieving widows.

She lost her husband, a former member of the Air Force, nearly 15 years ago. He died in a car accident. "I remember going home to that empty home," she said. Her only thought was, "What now?"

She said it took her five years to realize he was gone forever.

Finding support is what helped her get through it.

"Fifteen years later, it's going great," she said, thanking God and external guidance for the progress.

"Seek help, accept help," Richardson recommended to others in a similar position.

"You are not alone," she stressed. If someone offers you a hand, "cash that check,"
she said.

Follow-through is key to consoling Gold Star Mothers and Families, Richardson said. "I don't care if it's something small, like bringing a cheeseburger," she said. "I want my cheeseburger."

Two Gold Star family members wait to release balloons in honor of the sacrifices their loved
ones made serving the country. They hold the bouquets they were presented with at a flower
ceremony during Gold Star Mothers and Families Day Sept. 30.