It is a club that nobody wants to join. But it is also a club that offers a lifeline between its members, a support system that they all cherish. WNY Gold Star Mothers is a group of women, all of whom have had a child killed in the military.
“You go on a rollercoaster of emotions as they speak about their sons,” shared WGRZ’s Pete Gallivan (lead image), speaking about his recent interview with three Western New York Gold Star Mothers. “Beginning with pride and love, their stories then travel through the darkness of grief, and then find inspiration. They feel in their hearts they are giving their loss meaning. They feel that helping other veterans and their families is the best way of preserving their son’s legacy.”
As a way to build support for the Gold Star Mothers, Buffalo ‘Blues4Vets’ music campaign – an organization that has raised over $200,000 in donations for 21 veteran charities since 2016 – is hosting a concert on Wednesday, April 19 (6pm), at The Cave (71 Military Avenue), which is part of the Sportsmens Tavern’s music complex. The concert features several members of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.
Over the past five years, more than 50 WNY ‘blues4vets’ music events have been held. These concerts have helped to reveal significant needs for Veterans, particularly the importance for the community to aid in the assistance of military veterans (especially combat) to effectively transition to civilian life. The funds raised at the concerts are earmarked towards these efforts.
While there are significant needs for Veterans, there is another group that has also suffered immeasurable losses.
The White Van
Hollywood puts a cinematic spin on it, with slow motion waving flags and hugs from neighbors… when that white van pulls up in front of a house and 2 uniformed officers get out to deliver the news. ‘Blue Star’ families (with a member in active duty) all share a painful and prolonged trepidation, about seeing the van or getting a phone call from the pentagon or a commanding officer, that their child will not be coming home.
Forget Hollywood’s romantic notions. Listening to the moms talk, recalling the terrifying moments, it feels raw.
The history of Gold Star Mothers can be traced back to 1928 (World War I era).
Since 9.11 – the Afghanistan and Iraq era – there are approximately 60 WNY families who have lost a son or daughter in combat, or on occasion in a training accident [source].
Ultimately, by helping others, the Gold Star Mothers demonstrate boundless courage, by using their deep wounds to drive the mission to serve… but it still hurts.
Every Parent’s Promise
This author’s first thought – holding my newborn daughter moments after her birth – was probably similar to most parents. It’s a sacred thing, the promise we make to our babies: ‘Nothing bad will ever happen to you as long as I’m around. I will keep you safe, protected – away from harm.’
I’ve never asked a Gold Star Mother about this, it seems too personal. But I’m guessing they remember it when they think about their respective son or daughter that never got the chance to be a Veteran.
For most Veterans and their families the most common challenge is making that transition back from military to civilian life. Many Veterans return with wounds that are both seen and unseen. Gold Star Mothers are not a natural fit in this veterans’ community because they carry a different story. It’s important to remember that these mothers are the embodiment of the memories of their sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice. Therefore, it’s important to give them the recognition and support they deserve. They are paying a price that few of us will ever understand.
Get more information and purchase tickets
About the author: Bob James, LCSW has 40 years professional experience in social work, mental health, education and music production. Since 1987 he has led various music campaigns, often with national artists [like Jackson Browne, HEART, Melissa Etheridge] that have raised over $400,000 for a range of causes, including safe schools, youth prevention programs, food banks, and music charities like Music is Art and the West Falls Center for the Arts and now Veterans & Military Families.
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