Southwest Florida Gold Star Mothers gather to remember their children

American Gold Star Mothers of Southwest Florida are gathering this weekend to remember their children who never made it home. They also want to help those who did.

Gold Star mothers are not like every other mom. But if you ask one of them about their hero, they will sound like every other mom.

Beth Haely lost her son, Tommy, Jan. 14, 2016 in a helicopter crash.

“He was the best shooter in the platoon. He was even in the program when he graduated,” Haely said.

When she asked him why he wanted to join, he wanted to make a difference. “I said, ‘Why the Marines?’ He said, ‘Mom, I want to be a part of something big, ‘” Haely recalled.

Within her grieving process, Haely found a way to be a part of something big too. She’s in charge of Southwest Florida’s chapter of American Gold Star Mothers.

This weekend, all the Gold Star Moms in the state will visit the region for their annual meeting to honor their sons and daughters.

“People can die twice,” Haely said. “They die with their last breath, and they die when people stop saying their names when they forget them.”

Perhaps, what is most striking about these mothers is that they also serve the children of other mothers who did come home.

“When we volunteer for the veterans here, I feel like I’m with my son,” Haely said.

Over the weekend, the women will review their veterans service projects for the upcoming year.

Lucas Century is one of the speakers this weekend. He’s a local artist who helped engrave the 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1981. His mission is to inspire everyone else, and honor and remember the veterans.

“Let them know they’re not alone in how they grieve,” Century said. “We do our best, but I think we fall short often.”

In recent months, these Gold Star Mothers have donated time and resources to honor local JROTC programs among other actions.

They’ll meet to focus on future projects Saturday at Mission BBQ. Tommy’s picture, along with a number of local Gold Star men and women will hang proudly on the walls.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Drew Hill
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