American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., was organized shortly after World War I, to connect and support mothers who had lost sons or daughters in battle. The name is taken from the practice of families displaying a service flag with a blue star to represent members of the Armed Forces. Those who lost their lives were represented by a gold star.
The organization continues today, with the same purpose. A mother speaking at an event in Pittsburgh, Pa., said her greatest fear that her only son, who died in Afghanistan, would be forgotten.
A retired U.S. Marine Corps major is on a 77-day mission to make sure those who gave their lives, and the families they left behind, are not forgotten.
Jennifer Marino, who retired this summer after 15 years in the Corps is fulfilling a dream to make a cross-country bicycle ride, dedicating it to fallen heroes. She and friend, Major Jason Donovan, and her mother, Carol Marino, driving the tightly packed support vehicle, stopped briefly in Pratt Friday, and were welcomed at a meet-and-greet by members of the American Legion Post 86.
They began the journey Aug. 10 at Camp Pendleton in California and will end Oct. 25 at Camp Lejuene, North Carolina. After the "official" ending of the trip, they'll continue on to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, near Quantico, Va.
Along the way, they've stayed with Gold Star families, or spoken to them, or spoken at larger gatherings. In a blog she has kept during their travels, she notes that families are eager to talk about their children or their brothers and sisters or husbands and wives. Sometimes people don't talk about the loss, because they're afraid it will cause pain. The opposite is true, however, and they appreciate when someone, even a perfect stranger, acknowledges their loss and expresses interest in learning more about their loved ones.
"This journey is about connecting with Gold Star families, sharing their stories and showing them in a tangible way their sons and daughters have not been forgotten," she said.
Marino hopes that her ride will result in a book. She has a job waiting for her, as executive director of the newly-opened Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness near Bluemont, Va. The non-profit organization was established to provide free respite, activities and programs for the nation's seriously wounded warriors and their families to reconnect and recover.
To follow Marino's travels, visit www.goldstarride.com or a Facebook page where she posts frequently.