A group of West Virginian women gathered at the Beckley VA Medical Center to decorate a significant Christmas tree- one meant to honor and remember their sons and daughters who lost their lives while serving in the United States military.
This collection of women known as Gold Star Mothers decorated the towering tree with “Honor and Remember” flags, ornaments with each service member’s photograph, name, branch served and rank and gold and red ribbons.
“To be able to place and decorate a Gold Star Tree, to honor our sons and daughters, has become the highlight of our (WV Gold Star Mothers) holiday season!” said Shirley White, President of the West Virginia Gold Star Mothers Association.
“Being able to do this and display our children’s pictures on a decorative tree means is to honor them and their ultimate price paid. Hopefully, people will stop to admire the tree and then say the names. That is what makes us, the mothers, feel pride. By saying a name, our child is not forgotten.”
Gold Star Mother Terry Cunningham participated in the tree decoration for a second year, after losing her son Army Staff Sgt. Robert Cunningham in July 2018.
Cunningham shared her experience stating that although this year has been hard, it does her heart good to see her son’s picture hanging on the tree.
“I enjoyed getting together with the moms and talking about our stories. It makes me feel love and support; sometimes you feel like you’re out there all alone when you lose a child.”
To ensure the safety of patients and employees, only a small group came to the medical center to help decorate the tree.
“The fellowship we experience also gives us a warm feeling. We understand each other and the fellowship becomes friendship. It’s always an emotional day, but we leave feeling that we have accomplished something for our children” White said.
According to the Beckley VAMC, West Virginia Gold Star Mothers help Veterans throughout the state during the year. Projects include helping Veterans with monthly bill payments, collecting supplies for the homeless, supporting Project Healing Waters, supporting the Honor and Remember Flag Ceremony program, and helping with Wreaths Across America programs by purchasing wreaths for more than 3,000 Veterans’ graves every year.