Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.
Although the main goal of the American Fallen Warrior Memorial is to honor, preserve and protect the legacies of our Fallen Warriors, it also lends itself to a great opportunity of offering hope and healing to a Mournful Nation and the families of our Fallen Warriors. Through a very visible show of gratitude for those who have sacrificed hope will rise. When we fulfill the promise of never forgetting, the greatest fear of our GoldStar Families will be alleviated. GoldStar families consistently express a fear that their loved ones will be forgotten and that their sacrifice will not be remembered.
Often times people don’t know how to react or what to say to our GoldStar families upon learning of a Fallen Warrior, during the mourning and grieving process and all of the years after. It is so easy to try to avoid the pain and not reach out because of our own discomfort. There is a simple way to help by expressing your gratitude. We have developed a simple acronym to help the public, friends, and family understand what our GoldStar families need us to do for them and say to them. “Gratitude Heals” and it offers hope.
Give them understanding for where they are in their grieving process, how the loss has affected their lives and how the loss has changed their lives forever. They will never get over it. Time doesn’t heal all wounds.
“With only having just reached the two year mark since my sons death, I am still trying to deal with all of it and learning to deal with the public, friends, and family. They all have kind words, they’re misguided but they feel they need to speak their advice. I often hear the words repeated in my mind that were spoken when I was handed the folded flag. “On behalf of a Grateful Nation” and I wonder how many are there really? Will they ever really know what he did for them and how much he is loved and missed?”
Christina Haslam Kazakavage
TSgt. Adam K. Ginett
Recognize their loss but also recognize the sacrifice. Take every opportunity to let them know that you will never forget and that you appreciate the sacrifice that was made.
“It’s okay to tell a GoldStar family that you are sorry for their loss. It’s okay to speak about our heroes. Honor them, respect them and their families and most of all, never forget them or turn away form the pain our families go through every single day. Maintain pride in the USA and finish each day with the memory that our warriors have fought, died and many are still fighting right now.”
Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher S. Fowlkes
“If I wanted the public to know anything about my brother it is that he gave his live selflessly. As an EOD tech his greatest source of price was that with every IED he disposed of, he allowed another soldier to go home to his family. My brother was 100% EOD through and through, and I know that he would want to be put in harms way before anybody else could get hurt. I would also like everybody to know that although we miss him so very much, we also are very proud of every thing he did.”
SSG Derek John Farley
KIA August 17,
Appreciate their sacrifice. One of the consistent wishes GoldStar families have that they want the public to do is show that they appreciate the sacrifice, that you appreciate your freedom and show that you honor our military. Display your pride in this country.
“There are still patriots who walk among us. There are people who live and bleed the values and freedoms that make American so unique. My husband (as well as many others) could have done anything they wanted to do, but Christopher chose to serve his country. He was the best sniper in the state, and he wanted to use his talent to make sure we in American can hold onto the freedoms that we enjoy. I want the public to not only understand that my husband gave his all, but that he was a patriot. America remains free because of brave men and women who are willing to stand guard in the night and water the tree of liberty with their blood. Also, I would like to tell them to live their lives with a new sense of worth, hope and purpose. Live with a new sense of appreciation for our great country and the blood of the patriots that have made it so. Let us never forget and yet let us live the lives they died to give us.”
Spc. Christopher Horton
Teach your children about them and share your patriotism. Teach your children to honor and respect the sacrifice that was made. We are all direct beneficiaries of their sacrifice and by promising to never forget you are promising to pass down the importance of that sacred promise to future generations.
“Please tell your children, educate them, and allow them to “understand” the cost of freedom. These Fallen Hero’s whether in a Memorial Wall, a museum, or in a website, died so they could live in a land where Freedom can be enjoyed. So they too can enjoy the life these Hero’s enjoyed when they were young. Respect the Flag, respect a Veteran, and respect the families of Fallen Hero’s. Honor and Protect our country, that is the greatest gift, they can bestow upon our Fallen”.
Mary A Todd
Sfc. David Todd Jr.
Initiate the conversation about their Fallen Warrior. They like to talk about them and they want people to listen.
“People always come up to ask me how I’m doing, “Really? You really want to know when I can’t express it myself”. I would much rather have heard, “Ellen it’s nice to see you, we’re glad you’re here today.” I wear my sons dog tags everyday, we all do, my husband and two other sons. Mine has a picture of Joey on it. People will ask, ”Is that your son?” When I respond, “Yes he was.” They usually just say “oh” and then look away. They don’t want to know or they are afraid they will upset me. I like talking about Joey. God I miss him so much. My heart still has such an empty feeling.”
Ellen McCausland Dimock
Spc. Joseph W. Dimock II
Talk to them without being afraid of how they will react. If they cry let them cry. If they don’t wish to talk about it respect that but always ask.
“Being told thank you is nice to hear but it is not enough. It is too much to know that we will never see them, hear them laugh, see their smile or hold them in our arms. For many of us our future stopped, no wedding, grandchildren, someone to help us as we age. I want people to ask and not be afraid that I might cry. Your words will not make that happen. It is a part of who I am now. I want to show his picture and share his life and his death. I want to be able to laugh at the silly things he did and cry that he will never get to do them again. I know of his friends who are all moving on. He will never get that experience of his own family. He would have made an amazing husband and father. Even though he is with the Lord and has the peace that surpasses understanding, I am still bound to the earthly and the void is huge. I ask that people not be afraid to reach out to others and to understand how important love and family are.”
Cpl. Christopher Leon
Understand their pain and realize it never goes away. Don’t try to talk them out of it or minimize it by telling them that time will heal them. No amount of time will heal them. This is their life now and they must learn to adjust and live with the pain.
“Please do not say “In time,” you will start to feel better….With all due respect these are not comforting words for our Fallen Heroes, our children, our brother/sister, our dad/mother, there will never be a time when we can recover, this is our new life. A life no one wished for but one that we will live together. We are proud of our Heroes. The GoldStar family is our new family. We understand each other, more than anyone can ever understand.”
Mary A Todd
Sfc. David Todd Jr.
Don’t ignore or avoid them or avoid talking about their loss. If you see that they have a GoldStar license plate or a memorial display on their car, or are wearing an article of clothing in honor of their Fallen Warrior recognize it.
“I wear a tee-shirt with my son on it and the front says…My Son, My Angel, Our American Hero and the back says, do you remember me? I died for your freedom. It has pictures of him on the front and the back. When I go out in public with this tee shirt on, about 99% of the people who look at me turn their heads immediately and act like they didn’t see it. That hurts the most. I have had a few come up to me and say, thank you and I tell them thank you for acknowledging my son and for talking to me. I even had a lady get out of her car and come to my window when she saw my gold star plate and thank me. Now that was really awesome and made me feel so good.”
Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson
Express your gratitude often and if there is an opportunity to learn a little about their Fallen Warrior actively engage.
“I would like someone to say something like, “I personally did not know your daughter, but after looking up information on her, you must be proud. I felt like I should have known her, as she sounds like such a great person. I grieve with you and thank you for her.”
Army 2nd Lt. Tracy Lynn Alger
Hear what they have to say about their Fallen Warrior. So often people stop listening for whatever reason whether it’s because they can’t deal with their own feelings about the loss or because they become uncomfortable not knowing what to say. Sometimes saying nothing, just listening is the greatest gift you can give GoldStar Families. They don’t want to feel that they aren’t done talking but you are done listening.
“I would like them to ask me questions about my soldier and then sit back and listen, don’t add your own stories, in other words keep your mouth shut. There is nothing and I repeat nothing that you can say that will make me feel better or heal me, just listening to me talk about my son tells me that you care.”
Karen Servis Funcheon
Army Sgt. Alexander J. Funcheon
Empathize with them by expressing it to them. Let them now that you can’t possibly understand exactly how they feel that you but that you are grateful.
“I would like to hear people say that our brothers and sisters did not die in vain and that there is a proud and Grateful Nation standing with us in this difficult time.”
SPC Jordan C Schumann
Always remember their Fallen Warrior and actively participate in activities that honor our fallen and show support to their families.
“My brother fought and died for his love of God, America, his family and his friends. I don’t want anyone to ever forget the true sacrifices we have all endured no matter what the media has to say. My brother came from a small town with small hometown values and beliefs. He never got to see my nephew but he heard a recording of his heartbeat just days before he was KIA. I am so very thankful for my nephew but my heart aches seeing him grow up without my brother by his side. We all miss him terribly. We grew up very close and it doesn’t get better. We just live on.”
Spc. Richard A. Smith
“I don’t want them to say anything. I just want them to always remember someone didn’t make it home so that they may be free. Just remember Cpl. Thomas L. Hilbert, KIA 9/7/2007 Mosul, Iraq.”
BillyJo Brown Alexander
Cpl. Thomas L. Hilbert
“There isn’t anything anyone can say. I would just want my son’s name and story to never be forgotten and for everyone to understand just how incredibly selfless our military members are for doing everything they do for all of us. I would like for every person in the United States to appreciate, really appreciate, the fact that our children served and died in honor of this county. This grief is for all to share and respect.”
Cpl. Joshua Robert Dumaw
“I want them to say he will be remembered, not just for his death but for his life too.”
Spc. Harely D.R. Miller
Let them talk about their Fallen Warrior and ask them questions about their Fallen Warriors life. Let them share the life they lived and the life they shared.
“I would like to hear the public say they are humbly speechless and grateful for the sacrifice that my brother and family is paying for their freedom and the freedom of our Great Nation. I would like them to ask question about their life and how they died. They can read in the paper the articles to find out how he died. I want to share how he loved to be in the military, how his fellow comrades called him “Ranger Karl” because he was the only ranger. I want them to know that my brother wasn’t only a soldier, he was also a son, dad, uncle and that he is our hero with wings!”
Tina Campbell Thomas
Sgt. Karl A. Campbell
“I want them to know that my brother served our country for 18 years. He left behind a wife and four beautiful children, three siblings, a niece and parents who loved him so very much and are so proud of his service. I want the public to know that he gave his life so that you are able to go out and do the things you do daily. Lastly I would like them to please thank every soldier they see.”
Sgt. Kurt Kruize
Say thank you, not just to the families of the Fallen but also to one that is serving or has served that you meet. Hearing the words means so much to our GoldStar families.
“Thank you for your family members service and sacrifice to our country.”
PO Marcus E. Cline
“I would like to hear someone say, though I will never be able to grasp what you deal with on a daily basis, I would like to take the time to say thank you for the sacrifice your family member made.”
Staff Sgt. Darren J. Cunningham
Everyone grieves differently and in their own time. Even when a death is expected survivors are left with questions and feelings about things left unsaid. When a Warrior falls, the family is left with questions about the circumstances surrounding their death, the condition of their remains, whether they were alone, if they were in pain, where did it happen, and how did it happen? These are questions they may never get answered. They are left with a lot to process and often times not enough information to fill in the blanks. Give them your patience and understanding as they journey through their grieving process. Often times they feel alone and like they aren’t done talking, but everyone is done listening. Sometimes they just need someone to listen.