Even the sky shed a tear as members of the Redstone Arsenal community remembered fallen warriors during a Gold Star service flag dedication at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend.
An Alabama rain did not discourage Gold Star families, friends and guests as more than 100 gathered at Bicentennial Chapel May 25 as the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command hosted the service to commemorate the permanent display of a Gold Star service flag at the chapel in honor of fallen warriors and the families they left behind.
“The Gold Star service flag reminds us of the importance of the gift of our freedom, earned by the fallen,” Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commander of Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, said. “The flag provides awareness and reverence, honoring the memory of service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation, our values and our way of life.”
Dickinson said the Gold Star service flag helps us remember and honor America’s fallen Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, as well as their families and loved ones, who carry their memories and keep their legacies alive.
“As a Gold Star mother recently reflected; for Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day,” Dickinson said. “Every day, Gold Star families remember their loved one’s life, and they feel the loss, but they also feel pride in them, celebrate their memories and honor their service to the American ideal of freedom. Without people like them, we as a nation would not enjoy the freedom, prosperity and many blessings we have as Americans.
“I am honored to join with you all in dedicating this Gold Star flag today. I am honored to share this moment with you to reflect on those you have lost and to remind you, our Gold Star families, that you will always be a part of our family.”
The term Gold Star family is a modern reference that comes from the service flag. The flags and banners were first flown by families during World War I. The flag included a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces of the United States, during any period of war or hostilities in which the armed forces of the United States were engaged. If that loved one died, the blue star was replaced by a gold star. This allowed members of the community to know the price that the family had paid for the cause of freedom.
The United States began observing Gold Star Mother’s Day on the last Sunday of September in 1936. The Gold Star Spouse Organization was formed before the end of World War II and is observed annually on April 5. The Gold Star Wives of America was formed April 5, 1945, before the end of World War II to provide support for the spouses and children of those who lost their lives while serving in combat.
“I was overwhelmed by the effort that was put into honoring the Gold Star families and the love we get from Redstone Arsenal,” Don Adams, father of 1st Lt. Michael Adams, said. “More than anything we feel like we are still a part of the family; we are being honored, and it is nice that people show interest and there is a tangible thing to remind them of the price of freedom.”
During the ceremony, Sun Goodloe, surviving spouse of Chief Warrant Officer Edward Goodloe, played a song of dedication called “The Prayer” in honor of the Gold Star families as a slide show of photos of fallen heroes played.
After the music ended, Dickinson and his wife Angie were joined by Gold Star children in the audience to unveil the flag, along with a plaque underneath that reads: This Gold Star Service Flag is permanently placed in memory of those who died in service to our nation, and to the Warriors who paid the ultimate sacrifice. You and your Families are always remembered in our hearts and prayers.
“Redstone is amazing and that is not the case for every installation,” Tiffany Little, surviving spouse of Spc. Kyle Little, said. “The support is never ending. It has been 11 years for me and I still get constant support.
“The dedication ceremony at the Bicentennial Chapel is amazing because it is a place where people gather and reflect on things and now they get this constant reminder of why they get to gather and reflect on their religious freedoms. The reason people get to meet here is because people actually died for their freedoms.”
During the ceremony, the following fallen local warriors and their families were recognized for their sacrifice: 1st Lt. Michael Adams, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Bishop, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Scott Bowen, Staff Sgt. Tyrone Campbell, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Dean, Spc. Jason Garner, Air Force Airman 1st Class Fabian Gonzalez, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Edward Goodloe, Maj. Michael Goodridge, Staff Sgt, James Hall, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Hall, Pfc. Rufus Joyner, Capt. Robert King, Spc. Kyle Little, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Loggins, 1st Lt. Scott Love, Sgt. William Bill Meeuwsen, Capt. Andrew Pedersen-Keel, Capt. Waid “Chip” Ramsey, Staff Sgt. Jeffery Reuter, Spc. Justin Saint, Pfc. Wilber Sheffield, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jonathan Smith, Spc. Christopher Spears, Staff Sgt. Dennis Springer, 2nd Lt. Cedric Strong, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Thomas, Spc. Ryan Winkelmann, Marine Corps Maj. William Winter, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Woeber and Pfc. Kai Yancey.
“These individuals gave up everything they had,” retired Capt. Mike Rose, Medal of Honor recipient and father-in-law of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Scott Christian Bowen, said. “They gave all their yesterdays and all their tomorrows so you and I can sit here and talk in relative peace and calm. That is a debt we cannot repay them. One of the things we can do is make sure their family members know that their loss is not forgotten and is remembered throughout the year.
“These losses are not just felt by the families, but also by friends and members of the units they served in. Here we are in 2018 and if we forget about their sacrifices, nothing else we ever do will matter.”