FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – Fort Leonard Wood Survivor Outreach Services honored the families of fallen service members during a special Gold Star Mothers and Families Recognition Concert Oct. 26 at the USO.
The concert is held annually to observe Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day, which was Sept. 29.
Each year, Gold Star families are invited to the concert, and each family has the opportunity to submit a song to honor their loved one — the 399th Army Band's Rough Riders then learn the music and put together the concert.
"The survivors also submit photos of their loved one that the band turns into a video presentation that plays while the corresponding service member's song is played," said Jody Carmack, SOS coordinator.
For Walter and Rhonda Michalski, it was their fourth time driving to the post from Clever, Missouri, to honor their son at a Gold Star concert — Sgt. Thomas Michalski, a cavalry scout, who died on Oct. 3, 2009.
"It's a great event," Mrs. Michalski said. "It's nice for the families. It helps keep his memory alive and gives us the opportunity to meet new people. We can sit next to each other and talk."
In addition to the 10 families invited to attend this year's event, 20 volunteers from the 554th Engineer Battalion served as personal escorts for the families.
Prior to the start of the concert, Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, commented on the burden of loss each Gold Star family member feels.
"We will never forget those who nobly gave their lives in service to our country," Martin said. "Today, we pay tribute to these brave men and women in uniform by honoring you: the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, who have wounds in your hearts that will never fully heal. As we appreciate the music during this concert, know we are acknowledging you, silently reflecting on your sacrifices and the sacrifices of the fallen, and renewing our pledge to live up to their example of patriotism and valor."
Following World War I, President Woodrow Wilson approved in 1918 the wearing of black arm bands bearing a gold star by those who had a family member who died in military service to the country. This distinguished them from the blue stars used to represent a family member presently serving in the military.
The first recognition on Fort Leonard Wood took the form of a family-style meal in 2010. The first Gold Star Mothers and Families Recognition Concert took place here in 2011.