2017-18 National President
Acceptance Speech-June 18, 2017
I cannot tell you what an Honor it is for me to be your National President. I want to thank you, for allowing me to follow in the footsteps of other Gold Star Mothers who have held this position before me: Ruth Stonesifer, Molly Morel, Norma Luther, Mary Byers, Jenn Jackman, Cindy Kruger, Candy Martin and of course, California's own, Betty Freeman. Collectively, these women have given me guidance, courage and confidence, for which I will be eternally grateful.
God has given each of us a journey, a destiny if you will, mine started on December 31, 2003. That is the day that changed my life forever…. Yet, in the midst of great loss, I have continued to thank God for giving me this chance to Praise Him, for it is because of Him that my life has changed for the better. You see……I have hope.…hope that I will see my son again one day, and hope that I might be able to share my journey with others, so that they may begin the healing process. To help others see, that while the pain never truly "goes away," it can get better, and there is always "Hope."
I have said this many times before, "We are all just moms!" We come from different walks of life…yes, some of us are, or have been professionals, some not, some have more education than others, some come from the East Coast, some come from the West Coast, and many more from all the states in-between, but, the one thing that unites us, that makes us all the same, is that we are Gold Star Mothers! We may do things differently, and we have grieved differently at the loss of our child. Yet, when you dig deeply we are all the same. We get out of bed each morning hoping that the pain will lessen, and that this new day, will bring us just a little more joy and love than the day before.
We hurt. Every day that goes by, is one more day without our child. But we are also survivors. We were left here to help those who need a helping hand. We are here to support each other in everything that we do. We are here to listen to each other, and we are here to build each other up. We are here to teach others, to share our child's story to everyone who will listen, and to give back to those who need it most.
Which brings me to an issue that I feel very passionately about at this stage in my journey- Military Suicide. So many of our kids are coming home suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. Some of you know all too well the severity these problems, and your lives have been changed forever because of them. Others of us do not know if our child suffered or would have suffered from the devastating effects of these debilitating illnesses. After speaking to many young men and women who suffer from PTS and TBI, I have learned that this does not have to become a "disorder." Treatments are available. I always think about my son Justin, and I always wonder, if he had come home without limbs, would he have been able to handle the new life he was given? Or if he came home with PTS or TBI, would he survive or would he have become a victim to suicide. I do not know, but as a Gold Star Mother, I can-- -- we can try to help our Veterans to stop thinking that there is no other way out.
I have a friend, one of my most precious Gold Star Mothers, whose daughter is married to a Vet, who suffers from PTS. My friend's daughter will tell you that her husband is a wonderful man and a great father. But PTS plagues him. Doctors can only diagnose, and Groups are sometimes at different places in their journey and cannot comprehend what another is going through. One of the best gifts offered to our Veterans is a "Service Dog." They are such a benefit to our heroes who come home with no outside wounds, but lots of private wounds. But we must try and do more!
As I stand here before you, there are two important goals that I would like for us to address as American Gold Star Mothers over the next 12 months. The first is to continue to reach out to other Gold Star Mothers. There are so many that have not even attempted to contact their various local chapters for one reason or another. We need to find them and let them know that we are there to help meet their needs. They all/we all need to understand that there are others who may not have gone down our path, but we have all ended up at the same fork in the road.
My second goal is to do all we can for suicide prevention. Statistics tell us that 22 of our heroes die every day from suicide. In reality, it may be more than that. This is unacceptable. We need to do everything we can to save our children, our Vets, those who at some point in their lives were defenders of our great country. I do not profess to have all the answers, but if we all work together, then just maybe we can make an impact and reduce that number dramatically.
In closing, you may have never thought about this, but God has allowed certain struggles in our lives, so that we can sympathize with, and serve the people around us. The Bible says, "He comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort others." In 2 Corinthians, 1:4, "when others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort that God has given us."
Think of those times in your life when the Lord has comforted you. To whom can you pass on that blessing?
Thank you, my Precious Gold Star Mothers, for allowing me on this Journey with you.
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