REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama - With respect to survivors, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command hosted a ceremony to honor families who lost loved ones serving in the armed services.

USASMDC/ARSTRAT Soldiers, civilians, family and friends gathered with Gold Star Families as the command raised a Gold Star Service Flag on Redstone Arsenal during a ceremony at the command's headquarters May 24.

"For many Gold Star Families, Memorial Day is a bittersweet observance as they feel both loss and great pride in their heroes, and our heroes," said Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, SMDC commanding general. "We raise this flag on Memorial Day weekend to mark the sacrifice of service members, but also to recognize the family members here with us. The Gold Star Flag, like the Gold Star and Next of Kin lapel pins, is a symbol representing not only our service members, but also your sacrifice to this great nation.

"Today, we raise the Gold Star Flag in remembrance of those lost and as a symbol that we recognize and honor the Gold Star Families who remain with us," he added. "We share our respect, our compassion and the strength of community that we all need to draw on so many times during our lives. We share the acknowledgement of an eternal debt of gratitude to our fallen heroes, and for their families who are their living legacies today."

During the ceremony, Phillis Reid, SMDC's Survivor Outreach Services, or SOS, liaison, said the command will always remember the nation's fallen heroes and the loved ones they left behind.

"The Gold Star service flag is a humbling reminder of the cost of freedom and we are committed to remembering our fallen warriors for their greatness," Reid said. "We commend their families who are left behind for demonstrating such courage and strength through hardship and loss."

The blue and gold star banner tradition began in World War I when white service flags bordered in red were displayed from homes, businesses, schools and churches to indicate, by the use of a blue star, each active service member in the U.S. military. A gold star indicated those who had given their lives for their country and allowed community members to know the price the family had paid in the cause of freedom.

In 2015, the Army authorized the Gold Star Service Flag to be flown under the American flag during significant observances, such as Memorial Day.

After the ceremony, Gold Star family members expressed their appreciation for the ceremony.

"Gold Star Families know why we have Memorial Day and we really honor this holiday," said Tiffany Little, wife of Spc. Kyle A. Little, "We come out here to SMDC because they honor our sacrifice. Any time and any place that respects Memorial Day is a good place and is the right place.

"Memorial Day is a day, that is as hard as it can be and as honoring as it can be, we remember our Soldier and who he was," she added. "We honor his life and the things he loved to do, like eat steak. So we will probably have steak."

Spc. Little, age 20, was killed in action in Salman Pak, Iraq, on May 8, 2007, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

Another fallen warrior's mother who was present at the ceremony serves as president of the North Alabama Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers.

Annette Hall is the mother of Staff Sgt. Jeffrey A. Hall who was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment; 3rd Brigade Combat Team; 10th Mountain Division; when he was killed by wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Afghanistan June 1, 2009, during his third tour of duty.

"The year after Jeffrey was killed, the SOS office opened here on post and I started meeting other mothers and families," Hall's mother said. "After a few years I realized that we really needed an organization that we could support each other as mothers because only we know what the other mothers' journeys have been. We're basically a peer support group, but we are also interested in ensuring the memories and sacrifice of our children are not forgotten.

"Today is very bittersweet because we are honoring and recognizing the loss of our children," she added. "Each and every one of us are so proud of our children. This weekend please remember the true meaning of this weekend. Memorial Day is to honor the life and sacrifice of the Soldiers of yesterday who have laid their lives down so we can enjoy today."