Veterans and their representative organizations are a strong part of Boulder City. Throughout the year there are tributes, memorials, celebrations and gatherings that honor those individuals and their families who wear the various uniforms of the United States. One organization, consisting only of family members of fallen servicemen and women, is identified by a Gold Star.
Recently, several such families were honored at Grace Community Church, which held its 12th annual Gold Star Family Day. Each year several speakers are asked to impart messages reflecting the spiritual side of the Gold Star designation as well as the patriotic side. This year was unique as a husband-and-wife team — the husband representing the military and the wife representing the ministry — presented comments.
Jeffery F. Brookman is an osteopathic physician and surgeon at the Veterans Affairs medical clinic in North Las Vegas. He’s a retired Army captain who served in Desert Storm and Somalia. After the church service he told me of the many people he treats at the VA, many with spinal injuries as well as other wounds that require the work of a medical specialist such as himself. He praised all the medical people at the local VA, noting that they are all dedicated individuals who are proud to serve veterans.
During his talk he said “Gold Star families have suffered the ultimate loss” and he quoted parts of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address from 1863 where he expressed that those who passed “shall not have died in vain.”
While he addressed the congregation about the physical side of life, his wife, chaplain Monterey Brookman, spoke of the spiritual side. She gave the invocation referring to Deuteronomy 30:10-20 and ended with the arguably less spiritual U.S. Marine shout “Semper Fi.”
There were several Gold Star family members present as well as Blue Star families, mothers and fathers whose children served in the military and returned home safely. The origin of the Blue Star and Gold Star tradition is not known, although some trace its history to a 1917 organization called American War Mothers. It’s official flag contained a blue star, a gold star and the words “United States Service Flag.” Locally, there is a move to form an active contingent of American War Mothers.
Of related interest, for many years Las Vegas has been home to a monument to Gold Star mothers, although it is in a rather isolated place in a corner of the grounds of the city’s senior center. It faces busy Las Vegas Boulevard but it’s a perfect example of “hiding in plain sight,” in that it is difficult to observe.
Gold Star and Blue Star mothers who attended the church service had not been aware of the memorial until I mentioned it to them earlier. It was dedicated in 1952 and contains the engraved names of Nevada servicemen who died in World War II. It also contains the spiritual message, “Our hearts hold these names of our heroic dead from Clark County in honored memory. They gave their lives in the service in the wars that peace and freedom might come to all men. God grant them eternal rest.”
It is fitting that at the service layperson Linda Garrison, representing the military mission of the church, spoke words with a similar message: “… to honor the families who raised these men and women, who love them and who now must live without them. Their service and sacrifice is why we are here today, for we know we owe our freedom to them.”
Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War and the host of “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 a.m. on 97.1-FM.