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    Posted October 4, 2010 by
    Fort Stewart, Georgia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to troops

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    Stewart honors parents of fallen Soldiers


    By Michael Adams


    FORT STEWART, Ga. -- Military Families have a life-long commitment of service alongside those who wear the uniform. When the Soldiers pay the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, the commitment doesn't end.


    Fort Stewart Survivor Outreach Services honored the parents of the fallen Soldiers with a ceremony commemorating Gold Star Mother's Day at Fort Stewart, Sept. 26.


    "I'm honored to present you with a coin today as a symbol of our commitment to you, our Army Family, in recognition of your sacrifice," said Col. Kevin Milton, Fort Stewart garrison commander, addressing the Gold Star Mothers who attended the ceremony.


    Along with the coin, he and Command Sgt. Maj. James Ervin, garrison command sergeant major, presented each with a photo of Warriors Walk, which honors the Soldiers of 3rd Infantry Division who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.


    Margaret Petruzzi is the mother of Staff Sgt. Christopher Kilroy, who died in 2009. She attended the event to honor her son's memory.


    "I'm very proud of all of this," she said tearfully. "I'm glad things are continuing. Even though the Soldiers are deceased, [the Army continues] to be involved with the Families."


    Petruzzi added that her grandson wants to join the military someday just like his father.


    Staff Sergeant Kilroy's father, Geno Petruzzi, served 40 years in the military and retired as a first sergeant.


    "I'm very proud that he took the initiative to join," he said. "He told me one day he'd have me saluting him, and I could not wait. It was very unfortunate how things happened, but we're still very proud of him. He was dedicated. He loved his country. He loved his Family."


    Colonel Milton said he was humbled by their presence and offered thanks and condolences to the Gold Star Mothers.


    "You, the parents here today, have sons and daughters that made the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "This is nothing easy to live with and something most of us can never truly understand."


    Deborah Tainsh spoke at the event. She is the mother of Sgt. Patrick Tainsh, who was killed in 2004 while serving with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. She offered words of encouragement to fellow Gold Star Mothers who lost their children.


    "Together, we all learn to cope in our new norm by giving each other support and having events like this today that bring us together to see the faces of others and hold the hands of others that are walking the same journey," she said. "We will survive the folded flag,"


    Tainsh authored "Surviving the Folded Flag," a book which chronicles the stories of Gold Star Mothers and how they cope with their losses. She autographed copies of her book and spoke individually with other women still suffering from grief to encourage through the difficult times.


    Afterwards, the Gold Star Mothers and their Families went to Cottrell Field for a balloon-releasing ceremony and to visit Warriors Walk.


    During this part of the ceremony, the mothers of the slain Soldiers wrote a note on the balloons to their children. Then they released their balloons with the messages, which floated away, knowing their children would receive them.


    Michelle Thomas' son, Spc. John Thomas, served in the 3rd Infantry Division and has a tree honoring his memory on Warrior's Walk as Fort Stewart.


    "I thought the ceremony was wonderful," she said. "It's honoring our children, who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I'm very, very proud of him. He devoted his life to defending our country and our freedom."


    Gold Star Mother's Day is celebrated the last Sunday of September. It was founded in 1936 by President Franklin Roosevelt, to honor the mothers of slain servicemembers and honor the ultimate sacrifice their children made.


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