A group of West Virginia women gathered at the Beckley VA Medical Center to decorate a significant tree, one meant to honor and remember their sons and daughters who lost their lives while serving in the United States military.
Ornaments for the Gold Star Tree at the Beckley VAMC.
“To be able to place and decorate a Gold Star Tree, to honor our sons and daughters, has become the highlight of our 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 we honor them and the ultimate price they paid,” she continued. “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 for a second year, after losing her son Army Staff Sgt. Robert Cunningham in July 2018.
“This year has been so hard.”
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Cunningham in July 2018.
“This year has been so hard but it does my heart good to see Rob’s picture,” she said.
To ensure the safety of patients and employees, only a small group gathered on a recent Saturday afternoon when the medical center had less traffic.
“I enjoyed getting together with the moms and talking about our stories,” Cunningham said. “It makes me feel love and support. Sometimes you feel like you’re out there all alone when you lose a child.”
The tree is towering, filled with “Honor and Remember” flags and ornaments with each service member’s photograph, name, branch served, and rank. Beautiful gold and red ribbons flow from the top.
“We have accomplished something for our children.”
The tree is in the Beckley VAMC Emergency Department waiting area and the first thing you see when entering the facility.
“The fellowship we experience also gives us a warm feeling,” White said. “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.”
West Virginia Gold Star Mothers help Veterans throughout the state during the year. Projects include helping Veterans with monthly bill payments and collecting supplies for the homeless.
They also support Project Healing Waters and the Honor and Remember Flag Ceremony. And they help with Wreaths Across America programs throughout the state.
Every year they fundraise and purchase wreaths for more than 3,000 Veterans’ graves.
Sara Yoke is a public affairs officer at the Beckley VA Medical Center.