By Ms. Susanne Kappler (Jackson)October 4, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Families of fallen Soldiers came together Sunday evening in a ceremony at Semmes Lake to commemorate their loved ones. Two hundred and ninety five candles lined the pier -- one for each Soldier from South Carolina who has died while on active duty since 2001.
"It means a lot to me. It means a lot to my wife. My son -- tomorrow it would be two years since he got killed in Afghanistan," said Luther Rabon Sr., whose son, Sgt. Luther Rabon Jr., died Oct. 1, 2010, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device.
It was the second time Fort Jackson's Survivor Outreach Services hosted the Gold Star Mother's Day Luminary at the Lake event. Leslie Smith, SOS coordinator, said it gives surviving family members and others in attendance a visual representation of how many Soldiers lost their lives.
"It just touches me every time I look at these lights reflecting off the water. It tells you how many Soldiers we've lost," Smith said.
In addition, it gives surviving family members an opportunity to connect with others who share a similar history.
"A lot of times they think they're in their own world," Smith said. "They don't get a chance to meet other mothers. Today, we have new fallen Soldiers' mothers here who are able to talk with the other mothers who have been doing this for a while."
One of those mothers is Sharon Meador, whose son, Sgt. J.D. Meador, was one of three South Carolina National Guard Soldiers killed June 20 by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
"This is just wonderful -- just to have something like that and everybody coming together to remember the men and women," Meador said. "I wouldn't want an elaborate thing like a dinner or anything like that. I like something simple like this. To me, it's more meaningful."
Smith said the most important message the event aims to convey to family members is that they are not forgotten.
"Family members need to know this. They really do," Smith said. "I talk to them frequently, and they'll say, 'I just thought we were forgotten.' One of our mothers said that to me the other day. I said, 'Absolutely not. You're not forgotten. Never.'"