The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


October 1, 2012

Ceremony honors fallen and families

HERNDON —  As the sun set Sunday evening, the 600 luminaries emblazoned with gold stars at the Alvin E. Long American Legion Post 504 glowed softly.

The luminaries were part of a ceremony honoring members of the military “who have fallen, but also those who are left behind,” said Maj. Erik Smith in the ceremony’s opening prayer.

“We’re recognizing the loss of life,” said Jessica Charles, of Lewisburg, the keynote speaker. “We light a candle and illuminate (the memories of) our loved ones.”

Charles knows too well about the loss of a loved one serving in the military. Two years ago, her brother, Cpl. Joshua Harton, was killed in action, something she said often leads to people falling silent when she mentions it because they don’t know what to say.

But she and other area Gold Star family members want to change that. They want to bring back the original meaning of the Gold Star: the recognition that a family with a gold star was in need of comfort, she said.

The Defense Department awards the Gold Star pins, usually through a service casualty officer. Congress established the Gold Star Lapel Pin in 1947 after World War II, but award authority was retroactive to World War I. It covers most subsequent conflicts, including operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

The program went silent somewhat during the Vietnam era, when anger about the war brought insults and vandalism to deceased soldiers’ families and their homes.

Alongside Charles, three Gold Star mothers were recognized at the ceremony: Josette Deppen, who lost her son, Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Deppen; Peggy Morrison, mother of Lance Cpl. Nicholas Morrison, of Carlisle; and Connie Frye, mother of Lance Cpl. Jason Frye, of Landisburg.

Though the losses hit the family members hardest, Charles said, the death of a service member “is also (a loss) for this country.”

The crowd of about 50 people gathered to reflect and mourn with the Gold Star families and to keep the memories of their loved ones alive, said Rebecca Witmer, herself a Blue Star mother of two Marines. Blue Star Mothers are those with children on active duty.

“My wish is that we have allowed these loved ones’ stories to shine,” she said.

Text Only
The Daily Marquee

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.