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What does a Gold Star pin mean?

The war against terror earned me a new and unwelcome piece of jewelry. Like most members of my generation, I knew nothing of the single gold star wreathed with leaves. But I am now a Gold Star mother ... a woman who gave life to a child who gave that life in the service of his nation.

My son, Kristofor Stonesifer, died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash the first night of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. When my grief was fresh, I began hearing from Gold Star Mothers.

The first was a woman in the Midwest who'd lost her son two decades ago ... on a tiny Caribbean island called Granada. I asked how it was for her so many years later. "Some days are better than others," she said simply.

That was the same answer I'd been using during the eight weeks since my son's death. I felt an instant bond. This was someone who had experienced the same devastation I had. Her answer made me realize that the dreadful feeling deep within would never go away ... because she still experienced it each and every day. But with her simple statement she also told me there are no rules on how to grieve.

Gold Star mothers are a group we pray will never increase in membership. Some are bitter that their only child is dead. Some have taken on new responsibilities to care for wounded soldiers in Veteran's hospitals. Others devote themselves to their church or other charitable missions. These acts of giving bring new purpose to our lives.

Our goal is never to forget our fallen sons and daughters. We may have told our child's story a million times. But when asked by the newest Gold Star Mothers ... we smile softly and tell it again with the same love and affection as the first time.

I remember Kris mostly out of uniform, as the warm human being I was proud to call my loving son. After his death, the Army told me he 'did not die in vain' and he is an 'American Hero'. I held on to each lofty word like a life preserver as I dealt with my sadness. They helped me develop a mythology about my son. He died serving his country, a country I love and no longer take for granted. Gold Star Mothers know there is a price to be paid for freedom.

Last year I attended my first memorial services at Arlington National Cemetery. The funerals were for two Army Rangers who had died in an Iraqi car bombing. I introduced myself to a new Gold Star mom. There was an instant recognition of the small emblem we both wore and the sad connection we shared. Her eyes melted and we embraced.

As we stood among endless rows of white headstones, I noticed a marker for a soldier who had served in World War II ... right next to one who died in Afghanistan ... and one who served in Korea ... and one who served in Vietnam. And now the first casualties from Iraq were being buried in this same row of hallowed earth.

I realized I was one in a long line of mothers from the American Revolution to the present ... Mothers who have watched their sons and daughters go into harms way to protect our freedom. Along with the little gold pin I now wear, I have inherited a community of mothers, and a lifetime of sharing their grief.

Ruth Voshell Stonesifer
Gold Star Mother of
Kristofor Stonesifer
KIA 19 OCT. 2001

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