Newsroom – Every day is Memorial Day for Gold Star families
On Remembrance Day, Gold Star Families – families of military personnel who died while serving in the U.S. military – encourage others to remember the meaning of the holiday.
“Being a Gold Star mom is really a catch-22,” said Beth Funk, IT team leader for American Airlines in Fort Worth, Texas. “You are very sad to lose your child, but you are proud of them because they gave their lives for something bigger – for our country.”
Beth became a Gold Star mother in 2013 when her son, U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Strickland, lost his life while serving in Afghanistan. He was killed in an insider attack when an Afghan National Army soldier turned his gun on Strickland’s unit during a training exercise at the base. Sgt. Strickland called out the shooter to distract from and others’ attention, and his heroic actions spared the life of another American soldier.
“For Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day,” Beth said. “This weekend a lot of people are marking the start of summer with barbecues and trips, but I would ask everyone to take a moment of silence Monday at 3 p.m. to reflect on the significance of Memorial Day and honor those who gave their lives for our freedom. “
This year, in partnership with The American Dead Soldiers Project, American has installed an exhibit at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) that features portraits of fallen heroes, including Sgt. Strickland, near gate C2. The American Fallen Soldiers Project is a nonprofit organization that gives their families hand-painted portraits of fallen servicemen and provides replicas for exhibits – like the one in DFW. The exhibit, which features paintings by artist Phil Taylor, is a way for clients and team members to honor our fallen service members this weekend.
Beth said she remembered Joshua’s big hugs and how his lovely smile lit up a room. “I don’t want my son to be forgotten,” she said. “It is our greatest fear as Gold Star Families that our heroes will be forgotten. These postings comfort me knowing that my son’s memory will live on.
The Chicago US Section of the Veteran Military Employee Business Resource Group (VMEBRG) helped present a similar display called “Portrait of a Soldier” at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), which represents hundreds of military personnel. fallen from Illinois. ORD Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Gregory Daniels had the opportunity to view the exhibit and honor his son, Nickolas Daniels, a US Navy who was killed in action in Afghanistan in November 2011.
“He should be here, and it’s sad he isn’t,” said Gregory. “But thanks to my son – and everyone else included in this exhibit – other people were able to come home. I’m proud of it, but it’s still difficult.
Looking at his son’s portrait, Gregory remembered Nick’s larger than life personality. He said he was a big older brother to his siblings and would do anything for his family and friends. On the day of his death, he was protecting his unit, and because of this selflessness, his fellow Marines returned home safe and sound.
Gregory wants to remind others to pause and think about the meaning of Memorial Day this year, especially the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Sharing their stories with the younger generation, he said, is an important part of keeping their memory alive.
“Just remember those who aren’t there – those who didn’t come home, those who died on foreign soil fighting for your right to have this barbecue,” he said. “And make sure you tell your kids that so they can tell their kids and so on.”