SPRINGFIELD, IL (04/05/2012)(readMedia)-- For only the third time since 2010 the country officially recognizes the contributions, dedication and sacrifices of military widows with "Gold Star Wives Day" April 5.
Passed in December 2010, a Senate resolution designated Dec. 18, 2010 as a day to honor and recognize the contributions of the members of the Gold Star Wives of America, an organization of widows and widowers whose spouses died while on active duty or as the result of military service. The day has been honored April 5 in both 2011 and 2012.
"It's nice to be recognized and remembered in that way, but I don't want to be put on a pedestal. Living in the small community I'm from, it's not just one day," said Larissa Melton of Germantown, and widow of Staff Sgt. Joshua Melton. "They know who I am and what he did. That's all I ask is for people to remember the sacrifice he made. It means a lot to me that people still remember his name."
Larissa said she felt it was important to give their daughter, Aubrey, who was 8 months old when Melton died, strong memories of him before his death.
"Every night after Joshua left for Afghanistan, I would show her a picture of the three of us and point to her dad. She would look at the picture and say 'good night daddy, I love you,'" Larissa said. "I would point out things to her like his favorite color, and still today she will see something and say 'that's what daddy likes'. She still remembers."
Melton, 26 and assigned to Illinois Army National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry based in Marion, was killed in action June 19, 2009 in Afghanistan.
Rasa Stream of Mattoon, widow of Sgt. Scott Stream, has found being a Gold Star Wife challenging.
"My life changed completely. I moved here from Europe to be with Scott, and then he got deployed and was killed. I came here with a husband and then I was all by myself," Rasa said. "With Scott's family in Kentucky, me living in Illinois, and my family still in Europe, it's difficult for me because I don't want to be a burden on them – I know it's hard for everyone."
Their daughter Laura, who was 6 at the time of Scott's death, struggles even three years later.
"Laura is 9 years old now, but the more she grows, the more I think she suffers from the loss of her father. There is an empty place where her daddy used to be," said Rasa. "We have a house full of pictures, and we talk about him a lot. But she sometime will say to me 'please tell me more about daddy, I feel like I'm forgetting.'"
Rasa, too, feels the importance of honoring Gold Star Wives.
"It is important to have this day. As time goes by, I think regular people forget about us and our struggle," she said.
Stream, 39 and assigned to Illinois Army National Guard's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry based in Effingham, was killed in action Feb. 24, 2009 in Afghanistan.
For Kim Smith of East Peoria, widow of Sgt. Paul Smith, the hardest part of being a Gold Star Wife is moving on with life.
"I have felt a lot of heartache going through the transition. It's an everyday struggle. Life continues, and there is some happiness, but it's just not the same," she said. "I was an older wife when I lost my husband of over 20 years. If I'm struggling how are the younger wives handling it?"
Kim also thinks honoring Gold Star Wives is important, but wishes more emphasis is given to the day in the future.
"It's a great honor, but I think the Gold Star Moms get more recognition, more so than the wives. I know the moms have lost a son, but we lost our husbands. I don't think there is as much attention given to the Gold Star Wives," she said.
Smith, 43 and assigned to Troop C, 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry based in Aurora, was killed in action June 19, 2009 in Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. William Enyart of Belleville, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard shared his admiration of the Gold Star Wives.
"While these brave Soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our great nation, it is the wives they left behind who have endured the tragedy of losing a loved one to war," he said. "The Illinois Gold Star Wives hold a special place in my heart and will always be part of our military family."
Formed during World War II, the Gold Star Wives of America is a congressionally chartered, non-profit veteran's service organization that provides support for the spouses and children of those who lost their lives while serving in the Armed Forces. Eleanor Roosevelt was a member and one of the original 15 signers when the organization was incorporated in New York in 1945.
For more information on the Gold Star Wives of America visit http://www.goldstarwives.org/.
For more information, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at
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