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06-07-2007, 04:37 PM
Got a message today from a friend. I had no idea about his story ( or that he could tell it so well ). I'm pasting the story below followed by his essay about "Gold Star Mothers".


I was fourteen years old, in 1969, when I stood on the tarmac at the
Wichita airport watching as they returned my brother, David, to his
hometown in the same manner. The Boeing 707 pulled up to the gate -
there were no "jetways" then. The navy escort, a petty officer,
came off the plane and met us. He too was carrying a folded flag.
He saluted my mother and father, and intoduced himself to the rest
of us. His name was Petty Officer Ronald Wolf, USN. I believe he
was from New Jersey. He then escorted us to the cargo door of the
plane where one of those conveyors on wheels, as well as an honor
guard from Dave's local reserve unit, was already positioned to
lower the crate containing my brother's casket from the belly of
that plane. From there, we placed our hands on the box, and walked
along with it to the hangar, and the awaiting hearse.

I'm 53 years old now. I don't dwell on these memories every day,
but I can say that there is a conscious "second level" of thought, a
sort of "rythm track" that's always running in the background where
these images live. Our Navy escort was with us through the whole
ordeal of my brother's return. He appeared each morning at the
house, accompanied my dad, with me tagging along, to the funeral
home as arrangements were finalized, he escorted my mom to the
market and carried groceries for her. He stood at attention beside
Dave's flag-draped casket at each viewing. He rode with us to the
funeral home, and left with us each day. He sat with us at every
meal. He listened to mom and dad patiently as they filled him in on
every detail of Dave's life. Ronald met relatives, close and not so
close, met Vicki, David's girlfriend, and stroked the velvet nose of
Dave's horse out at the farm.

Our escort became someone military, with a familiar face of four
days, who prepared us, and "buffered" us from the profound and
intimidating experience of a military funeral. The process, for me,
became a blurry "tunnel like" experience with honor guards,
decorated officers, white gloves, muffled commands, deafening gun
shots, and a mournful horn. Mother smothered her tears into the
chest of Ronald's woolen uniform, as he comforted her, and we all
got through it. Ronald boarded a plane the next day, and we
promised to write.

A few years ago, I was in a bible study in Denver, when a retired
Army chaplin spoke his personal haunting from years past in Viet
Nam. He shared that the he, along with every chaplin fulfills a
government requirement that the body of every fallen soldier and
sailor be prayed over. It brought him pain that he had done so
many. Airplane hangars, field hospitals, lined up along roadsides,
or in the hold of a cargo plane, he had unzipped the bags, read the
tags, and honored the faith, and a nation.

Chaplin, Escort. I can't imagine a job so difficult. But I am
blessed and grateful that there are those who can. Anybody who
thinks the personal sacrifice of a soldier is taken lightly by an
impersonal government, just don't know.

Along the same lines, I attached an essay I wrote about Gold Star
Mothers. These are things every "Citizen" should know.


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06-07-2007, 04:40 PM
“My Gold Star Mother”by Joe Land, Copyright 2003.

I'm sure I've told you, along the way, that my next older brother, David, was killed in Viet Nam, which makes my mother a "Gold Star Mother”. The “Gold Star Mothers” is a national organization for the mothers of servicemen and women who have been killed in action in foreign wars. The name “Gold Star” comes from the gold star affixed to a purple-heart medal, indicating that the medal recipient was killed in action.

My mother was active in that organization many years ago when we lived in Wichita Kansas. In 1969 young mothers, by the thousands, were being added to this organization as the war in Viet Nam was raging. Many of the Gold Star Mothers that mom met then had lost sons in WWII, and Korea. They were mostly in their sixties and seventies. No one can understand a mother’s loss except another mother, and these brave ladies came in and surrounded my mom with love, and the kind of understanding that no one else could give.

The poignant part of this, was that as relationships grew between my mother and other Gold Star Mothers, they would tell their stories of sons who were lost decades ago, and show the pain as if it were yesterday. My young mother found it disheartening that the pain was still fresh for these mothers who had lost their sons so many years ago. This was mom's first inkling that this was something she would never get over. One of the mothers, who was in her eighties then, told the story of her son who had survived the Bataan death march and more than four years of utterly inhumane treatment in a Japanese POW camp, during WWII, only to die within an hour of freedom. In 1945, as US troops were within five miles from the camp, on their way to liberate the prisoners, the Japanese herded the POWs into mass graves, doused them with gas and turned flame-thowers on them. This lady cried as she told the story as if it were yesterday.

Now my mother is in her late seventies, and she still cries to talk of her boy, just as those Gold Star Mothers from WWII, that she met so long ago. Time should be considerate as it passes by, constrained to be fair where there is much pain. It is not. For you see, mom’s memory isn’t so good these days – that is, for things that happened last week, or even five minutes ago. It’s the memories of the distant past that are clear for her. We laugh when she can’t quite remember where to put the filter in a coffee maker – and we cry when she goes through the contents of a special trunk in the basement as she remembers every detail of the life of her boy who will be nineteen forever.

I've heard it said that in wars, young men die for old men's dreams, and that's true, but where young men pay that price but once, a Gold Star Mother pays the price daily, endlessly, over and over again, for the rest of her life. There ought to be a monument somewhere.

Unlike the Sixties, it is popular, these days, to honor those in the military and their honored dead who have paid the price for our freedoms - and it should be so. But, it is the mothers who pay and pay and pay. I was fourteen years old when a Navy Commander, in dress blues, stood in our kitchen at nine O'clock at night, and told my folks their son was gone. I saw my mother collapse at the news and that was thirty-four years ago – a picture that I will never forget. There is a tangible image of my feelings towards the Gold Star Mothers, in the form of Michaelangelo's Pieta', the famous statute of Mary, the mother of Christ, holding his lifeless body. The sadness and profundity of a mother's sacrifice is singular, and if our soldiers and sailors pay the ultimate price for our freedoms, their mothers are the "bank account" that the funds are drawn upon. God bless America, and God bless my Star Mother.

06-11-2007, 11:03 AM
I remember as a child, during WWII, the little flags with the Gold Stars hanging in windows. That essay brings up feelings for the woman behind the curtains that I never had then. :usflag: