Special Ops honors Gold Star Heroes at Fort Liberty Memorial Day ceremony

Monique John Image
Thursday, May 23, 2024
 Gold Star Heroes honored at Fort Liberty Memorial Day ceremony
The military community is paying tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in honor of Memorial Day.

FORT LIBERTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The military community is paying tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in honor of Memorial Day.

Fort Liberty held a ceremony for Gold Star heroes and their families on Thursday. This year, the names of five Airborne soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash in the Mediterranean back in November during routine training were added to a memorial wall.

Family members who came to the ceremony told ABC11 the loss is still fresh.

"It's kind of like scratching a scab because every time we go to one of these, it seems like it opens up the wound again. But it's very much an honor to have our son memorialized out here," said Mike Barnes, the father of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes.

The Special Operations Command paid tribute to the more than 1,000 soldiers who died while serving their country at its Fallen Warrior Memorial Wall. The program included a posting of the colors, the National Anthem, and wreaths laid for the five soldiers newly added to the wall during the ceremony.

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Lieutenant General Jonathan Braga, the USASOC commanding general, said events like this are important to remind gold star families that their loved ones will not be forgotten.

"It's real memories, it's real interactions with them and it's a feeling I want them to feel that they are just part of our family because they are," he said.

Those families told ABC11 they feel the solidarity. Some who lost their Gold Star heroes years ago said they have advice for families who are still adjusting to their grief:

"It's the most painful thing you're going to go through. Remember who you are. Remember who your loved one is. Not was, is," said Gold Star Dad Wendall Pelham whose son, SPC John Pelham, was killed in Afghanistan in 2014.

Nancy Stets lost her son, Staff Sgt. Mark Stets, Jr. in Pakistan in 2010.

"It may pop up all of a sudden out of nowhere, and that can still happen 14 years later. But it's not an everyday event any longer, and that's what makes it easier to live with. You remember them, but you remember the good things. You don't just remember that they're gone," she said.