Monday, May 7, 2018

Reflections of a Gold Star Mother

It's been over five years since the call came and I returned home from church on Father's Day morning to find my children waiting for me.  They had known since before I left for Mass that my son wasn't coming home again.  They took me into the house and sat me in my lazy boy before they told me.

I banged my fist and I cried but it was something I could not change.  It was something I had to accept.  My son's wife and two children returned to the states and the sensitivities between siblings and in-laws was something that had to be overcome.  Everyone's emotions were raw.  We had to wait for the Navy to make the arrangements to get him home to us so that we could take him to his final resting place in The National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.

Later in the day, two uniformed officers from the Navy came to tell me what I had already heard through a telephone call from my daughter-in-law in England to an older son.  They informed me that I would be contacted to sign paperwork since I was second beneficiary.  Of course, I knew that my daughter-in-law would be the first contact but I was grateful to be recognized.

I didn't go to the cemetery until his headstone was put up.  I didn't want to go visit an upturned earthen spot in the ground.  I go from time to time to put fresh flowers on the grave.  Each year the Veterans put Christmas Wreaths on the graves for Christmas.  Last year my daughter, granddaughter and I went to the wreath laying ceremony and took care of the grave with his wreath.

It's been a topsy turvy few years going between days of deep depression and days of doing what needed to be done for the rest of the remaining family.  As a member of the BPOE, Elks, I continue to proudly serve our Veterans at luncheons and services held in their honor.

The Navy investigation into the incidence that took my son's life concluded that he died from accidental causes and that he died while on active duty.  I had proudly flown a blue star pendant in my window while he was serving and now a gold star pendant replaces it for special days such as Memorial Day, The Fourth of July and Veteran's Day.  At our home Old Glory flies from May to November between Memorial Day and Veterans Day to lend support to our troops and this great nation. 

I applied to the Department of Defense for my Gold Star Pin and have received it to wear proudly on all National Holidays.  All in all, I have accepted the fact that my son isn't coming home but I can't help feeling emotional every time I hear a patriotic song or see a commercial concerning worthy veterans who have returned in need of help.

I went to the Memorial Day Service three years ago at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies as I had observed the Veteran's Day Service the previous November from a spot on the hill near my son's grave who is buried in a direct line with the huge flag pole in section 1.
Hiroshima Cherry Tree planted at American Legion Post 77
My son's wife and children planted a Cherry Tree in the yard next to our American Legion Post 77 in memory of my son and his years of residence in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania before leaving to join the Navy.

my favorite picture of Rob aboard CVN65, the USS Enterprise.

This is a society that I never wanted to join even though I always knew the possibility was looming in the background.  I grew up to honor Gold Star Mothers as my family was always linked to our Legion Post and I knew many of them personally from World War II.  My heart is healing but there will always be a spot there that longs to have my son home again so that I can hug him as I did when he was a child.

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