Prior to Memorial Day, the Space and Missile Defense Command held a ceremony to honor families who lost loved ones serving in the armed services.
Members of SMDC gathered with Gold Star families as the command raised a Gold Star service flag Friday at the command’s headquarters.
“This ceremony is one of both sorrow and solace,” Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, SMDC commander, said. “The raising of the flag gives us occasion to remember and reflect on our fallen heroes, the valiant men and women who made a selfless commitment to defend our nation’s values, freedoms and liberties – choosing lives of service and sacrifice. It also reminds us of the respect and gratitude we owe those who carry their legacy forward with both courage and perseverance, our Gold Star families.
“As this flag flies, it reaffirms our enduring connection to the generations of service members who have gone before us, our pride in our nation’s bravest warriors, and our promise to support those who carry the great burden of their loss. Because as all of you know well, freedom isn’t free. It is bought and paid for with the sacrifice made by our service members and their families.”
Karbler said the command’s presence at the ceremony confirms that the memory of those the country has lost in service to the nation will not be forgotten.
“I hope it brings a measure of comfort and peace to our Gold Star families to know that you are not alone,” he said.
The blue and gold star banner tradition began in World War I when white service flags bordered in red were displayed from homes, businesses, schools and churches to indicate, by the use of a blue star, each active service member in the U.S. military. A gold star indicated those who had given their lives for their country.
In 2015, the Army authorized the Gold Star service flag to be flown under the American flag during significant observances, such as Memorial Day.
Phillis Reid, a paralegal for the SMDC Legal office and the command’s project coordinator for survivor outreach events, said the command will always remember the nation’s fallen heroes and the loved ones they left behind.
“Now, more than ever it is important to honor Gold Star families to ensure their fallen heroes are never forgotten and that they, making their own sacrifices, are not forgotten,” Reid said. “We are humbled by their strength and have these events to let them know they are and will remain an important part of our SMDC and Army family.”
Reid said SMDC has been a supporter of Redstone Arsenal Survivor Outreach Services programs since 2011 and started the Gold Star flag raising ceremony in 2017.
“As Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those who have died in service to our country, it is the perfect opportunity to acknowledge all the men and women of our armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice and honor their families,” Reid said. “Over the years we have planned many events for the families, and we take every opportunity to encourage others to follow suit. Our Gold Star families deserve the recognition.”
After the ceremony, the families laid a red rose at the base of the flagpole in honor of their loved one. The Gold Star flag remained on the flagpole throughout the Memorial Day weekend and was taken down Tuesday morning.
Attendee Annette Hall, president of the North Alabama Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers, and mother of Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Hall, who died in Afghanistan while serving with the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, said it is important for Gold Star families to know the sacrifice of their loved ones are not forgotten.
“The most important thing to Jeffrey while he was in the Army was his men,” Hall said. “To honor him and the men he served with is one of the greatest things anyone could do.”
Another Gold Star family member said that for SMDC to support the families who have sacrificed meant a lot and lets them know they are not forgotten.
“My dad was a World War II and Korean War veteran so I grew up with Memorial Day being important,” said Eilene Shellman, mother of Spc. Paul Gordon Knaack II, who died after being wounded while serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. “Losing a child in service to the country is whole different ballgame. Memorial Day is not just one day a year, Memorial Day is every day for us. Being able to come here at SMDC and seeing the Gold Star flag and being surrounded by other Gold Star families gives peace and comfort with knowing you are not alone.”