Hundreds of “painted lady” butterflies were released on the banks of Burba Lake Saturday morning to pay tribute to service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The 3rd Annual Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day Butterfly Release was sponsored by Fort Meade’s Survivor Outreach Services program.
Voncile Farmer, Survivor Outreach Services coordinator, organized the 45-minute ceremony, which was held in recognition of Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day.
In 1936, Congress designated the last Sunday in September as National Gold Star Mother’s Day. The date is also known as National Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day.
American Gold Star Mother’s Inc. is an organization “composed of American mothers who lost a son or daughter in war or otherwise while serving in the United States Armed Forces,” according to the organization’s website.
The DoD Live website gives an overview of the history of the Gold Star.
“The tradition of the Gold Star began during World War II. During the early days of the war, a blue star was used on service flags and hung in homes and businesses to represent each living active-duty member.
As men were killed in combat, the gold star was superimposed on the blue star to honor the person for his ultimate sacrifice to the country. Eventually, the mothers of those fallen service members became known as Gold Star Mothers, and their families Gold Star Families.”
On Saturday, several Gold Star Mothers, Gold Star Family members and a small group of Fort Meade community members gathered at one of Burba Lake’s pavilions for the ceremony.
“It’s my pleasure to serve you. … It’s an honor to represent you for this program,” Farmer said.
The Army’s Survivor Outreach Services program provides long-term support for surviving active-duty, Reserve and Army National Guard families.
Fort Meade’s program serves about 161 Gold Star Families. Farmer said she provides a wide range of services, including grief and bereavement counseling, resources for social services and financial support.
“Whatever their needs, I help them,” Farmer said after the event. “We also help them stay connected to the military.”
Janice Chance, president and chaplain of the Maryland Chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers, was the ceremony’s guest speaker.
Chance is the mother of Capt. Jesse Melton III, who was killed Sept. 9, 2008, when his humvee hit a makeshift bomb in the Parwan province in Afghanistan.
“This is an emotional time for our Gold Star Families,” Chance said at the ceremony.
The strength and fellowship of Gold Star Mothers help them to “strive to keep the memory of their sons and daughters alive. … No one ever wants to join the Gold Star Mothers. You have to lose something precious to join.
“I truly believe that our children passed the baton onto us, to say ‘Move forward, keep on going.’ Yeah, you’re going to hurt, but I want you to keep on serving in our honor.”
Chance said the motto of the Maryland Chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers is “honor through service.”
The chapter’s members give back to service members, veterans and their families by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity of Chesapeake-Veterans Build, the American Red Cross, the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training, the VA Maryland Medical Center, the Association of the United States Army and the American Legion Post #60.
Gold Star Mothers Yvonne Green and Donna Robinson, both members of the organization’s Maryland chapter, attended the event.
Green is the mother of Spc. Toccara Green, who was assigned to the 57th Transportation Company. She was killed Aug. 14, 2005, when a multiple improvised explosive device detonated near her unit in Asad, Iraq.
Green said it was her first time at the butterfly release.
“To me, because my child was a girl, it made me think of her getting her wings and flying off,” Green said. “To me, it symbolizes freedom — going off into the unknown, free, no worries or concerns.”
Green said she is glad to be a member of the Gold Star Mothers organization because it provides her with the opportunity to give back to the military.
“[My daughter is] no longer here to serve, but I can do something in her honor and keep her legacy going,” Green said.
Robinson’s son Staff Sgt. Damion Campbell served as a medic with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan. He was killed on Aug. 26, 2005 by an IED while on patrol in a humvee.
Both of the Soldiers attended Forest Park High School in Baltimore and were enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
Robinson said the butterfly release symbolizes her son “flying again.”
“I get the same emotional feeling,” she said. “This is my second time [at the butterfly release].”
Robinson said that being a member of the local Gold Star Mothers chapter gives her a sense of “peace and comfort.”
“It gives me a little peace of mind to be around other mothers,” she said.