Gold Star Wives of America.
Is that organization unknown to you?
The purpose of the military group is to honor the memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our country.
I belong to the organization and so do thousands of widows.
But let me bring it closer to home by introducting some of those widows, firsthand..
Our national president, Katherine "Kit" Frazer, is the widow of Ken, a medical evacuation Army helicopter pilot. After serving in Korea and Vietnam, he was assigned to Bangkok, Thailand. It was there he was killed in a jeep accident, ending Kit's life as an Army wife.
But let me introduce you to other widows who are walking the journey alone after the deaths of their military spouses.
There is Brenda of Southern Ohio who is eight months into her widow's journey. She is thankful to all the other widows "who have walked this path and left the bread crumbs."
Rurh of Pennsylvania lost her husband to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma six years ago. He was exposed to Agent Orange, a poison sprayed in Vietnam.
Maria has been a widow for five years. Memorial Day is especially hard for her. She's having a tough time coping but her children (boys) give meaning to her life.
Star has a sign on her door that reads, "Please enjoy your freedom today. It was not free."
A Gold Star banner hangs in her window and she flies the American flag.
Many banners hang in windows of widows who have lost fallen warriors.
Jamie is still dealing with being a widow. "For me, Memorial Day is usually a tough one." She says that this year there is more sentiment to remember "our guys" that there has been in the past. Her husband was killed in action in Vietnam, 1969.
Vivianne is the widow of Lt. Colonel Richard Wersel, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps. He died on active duty in 2005, one week after returning from Iraq. Vivienne represents the Gold Star Wives of America as Chair of the Government Relations Committee. She has testified before Congress several times regarding survivor benefits.
Suzanne is the widow of TSgt. Edward Gerstner, United States Air Force, who died Oct. 2 of malignant melanoma. He was diagnosed while in active service. He served in the Persian Gulf War and retired in June 2001. He was 43 years old. They had three teenagers at the time of his death.
Laura from Michigan writes that her husband, Michael, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, was wounded in April, 1968 and died in October, 1971 from service connected disabilities.
Some of the soldiers do not die in battle but are returned to their hometowns with serious wounds or brain damage, or mental disorders requiring constant caregiving.
Those survivors are just samples of the thousands of widows who are coping with the loss of their husbands.
Just last week I learned of the severe wounding of a soldier in Afghanistan, the grandson of friends of mine. His name is Levi Crawford. Levi was manning the machine gun in a military jeep or Humvee when the attack occurred. Levi received serious injuries to his left eye and right arm, and flashburns all over his body. There were three solders in the jeep; one was killed. Levi had emergency surgery in Afghanistan, then was flown to Germany, onto Walter Reed Medical Cente,r where he is today. His parents are from Jonesboro. Levi is 23 years old.
There are so many stories these Gold Star Wives have to tell. Some are heartbreaking, as survivors try to cope with the sudden loss of their husbands.
A young military widow tells about losing her husband when he was only nineteen. They had been married for two years. "We didn't even get to know each other," she said, "but I treasure every moment we had together."