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Army honors Gold Star Mothers at Pentagon

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Sept. 28, 2009) -- More than 20 Gold Star mothers met Friday at the Pentagon in the Hall of Heroes for recognition by Army senior leaders prior to the national "Gold Star Mother's Day" on Sunday.

"As Gold Star Mothers, you made an ultimate sacrifice in the service of your nation," said Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., director of the Army staff. "You perpetuate by your service this noble cause for which your children died. And in your quest, you set such a remarkable example for all of us in the face of such tragic loss, an example which inspires us each and every day."

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Gold Star Mothers are those who have lost a son or daughter in military service. The organization began in 1936. In the United States, the last Sunday of September is officially designated as "Gold Star Mother's Day."

During the recognition ceremony, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh presented Ruth V. Stonesifer, national president of the American Gold Star Mothers, with a letter recognizing the importance of the Gold Star Mothers. The letter was signed by McHugh, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.

Stonesifer lost her son, Pfc. Kristofor T. Stonesifer, on Oct. 19, 2001. He was killed in action when his UH-60 crashed during a mission in Pakistan. When her son died, she said, she'd been unaware of the existence of the Gold Star Mothers. It was her other son, a recently retired warrant officer, who clued her in on the possibility of being a Gold Star Mother.

"I was holding my grandson, a little baby, and he said we're going to apply for your Gold Star pin," she said. "I said gee, what's that?"

Stonesifer said she searched on the internet for more information about the organization that she would eventually become president of.

"I sent for an application and joined, and the very first meeting I had was with three Vietnam moms," Stonesifer said. "They took me out to lunch. They just had the most amazing gift to give me, with their 30 years experience of going down this journey before me. I'm very proud to be associated with these great moms, I learn from them and I am inspired by them every day."

The Army recognition ceremony Friday at the Pentagon was a kickoff to a weekend-long series of events for the Gold Star Mothers.

The mothers attended a banquet Saturday at Fort Myer, Va. On Sunday, the mothers laid a wreath at the Vietnam Wall; attended a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery with a speech by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki; attended a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns; and held an open house at the Gold Star Mothers National Headquarters. On Monday, the mothers visited the Smithsonian Institution to view the restored Star Spangled Banner.

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