Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gold Star Memorial

     Eight years ago the Blue Star Mothers of California hosted the first Gold Star event at the Marines’ Memorial Association in San Francisco. Every year since, these same Blue Star Moms invite the Gold Star Parents to come at the end of February for two days of sharing and encouragement.

     I wrote about this event two years ago, but as a reminder, Blue Star Moms (Parents) have a son or daughter currently serving in the military. Gold Star Parents, on the other hand, have a loved one who has died while serving in the military.

     Isaura and I just returned from this year’s event which was our sixth time. We’ve missed twice over the years due to health issues, but otherwise we have this written into our calendar as a “must attend.” Our role is to serve as volunteer counselors.

     The California Gold Star Parents that come are only a portion of the number of fallen heroes. To date, California has lost 725 service members. For many parents it is simply too difficult to attend our annual get-together for a variety of reasons: the loss of their loved one is still too raw; they don’t trust their emotions in a group setting; they are still in denial; or some other reason probably known only to them.

     The activities during the brief 36-hours we are together includes a time for the Gold Star families to set up paraphernalia of their fallen hero displayed on one of the many tribute tables, to an evening’s reception and dinner, to a Memorial Service, to connecting and sharing sessions, to the finishing Tribute Dinner with a guest speaker.

     This year I was asked to provide the invocation and benediction for the Memorial Service which is held on Friday morning. What made this year’s ceremony so unique was the fact that for the first time we had an elected official attend. Senator Dianne Feinstein sat next to my wife.

     The annual Memorial Service is the most moving portion of the entire gathering. Nearly one hundred clear glass votive-style candles are lit one at a time as each service members’ name, rank and military branch is read aloud. When the name is read, family members stand while the rest of us say in unison, “A grateful nation acknowledges your sacrifice and prays for your peace.” Then a slide presentation of pictures of these warriors is shown with accompanying music.

     My prayer, the Invocation, which followed the posting of the colors and the national anthem, seemed to strike a chord with folks. Here it is in its entirety.

     Heavenly Father,

     Memorials are those sacred moments when we remember special people in our lives, or certain events that significantly mark our lives forever. This morning, we here are gathered to pay tribute to those brave men and women who have given the last full measure of devotion.

     Sometimes, Lord, it can feel as though no one can understand the depth of the loss experienced by these parents, brothers, sisters, and loved ones. But then again I’m reminded of the many times when you instructed your people to raise a monument in remembrance of a specific battle, or in the memory of a certain person. Then there was the memorial dinner that you had, Lord, when you broke the bread and drank the cup and instructed the disciples with these words: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

     Because of those who are named here this morning, we, too, will honor them by remembering them in their sacrifice for all of us. We do this in remembrance of them. Their selflessness makes our freedom breathe life and liberty into a world that has known little of either down through the ages.

     What we do here this morning, Father, may only be important to a few people in the broad spectrum of life. For our gathering goes virtually unnoticed. Life goes on all around us. And I suppose that’s as it should be.

     However, these Gold Star Families have had their lives disrupted and their hearts wounded in such a way that life may never take on a sense of normality ever again. Whether from World War Two seventy years ago, or Afghanistan only weeks ago, we remember their sacrifice.

     We now, at this hour Lord, honor our fallen warriors. When we honor them, we honor you, for it is you who declared, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

     And Lord, there is a balm, a healing ointment spoken of in the Scriptures. I would ask you to apply that balm to each one here who is weary from grief, sorrow and loss, because your Word makes this promise: “The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

     Thank you for the assurance of your presence in this hour of remembrance.

     In your holy Name!


     At the conclusion of the ceremony, following the Benediction and the closing remarks by MajGen James M. “Mike” Myatt, President and CEO of the Marines’ Memorial Association, Senator Feinstein, still sitting in her seat, was so moved by the whole service that she turned to Isaura and simply said, “Wow!”

     Wow, indeed. Please remember to pray for the families of our fallen.



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