Deborah Mullen, a Navy wife and mom and a military family advocate, has been married to Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for 40 years.
By Deborah Mullen
May 25, 2011
“Please don’t ever forget my son.”
That’s what a Mom — a Gold Star mother — said to my husband recently.
“He was my only son,” she continued, “and he died doing what he loved. But please don’t ever forget him.”
Michael promised her that he wouldn’t. He and I hear that same entreaty and make that same promise each and every time we have the privilege of being in the company of Gold Star families. These proud Americans have lost so much, have endured such pain. And yet they ask nothing for themselves. All they want is for someone, anyone, to remember the life and the service of a loved one.
And so we carry with us the photos and memory cards of their sons, daughters, moms, dads, brothers and sisters. We wear bracelets engraved with their names. We visit their graves when we can, and attend their funerals. We remember.
Monday is Memorial Day. In Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, the families of our recently fallen will spend another holiday weekend at the grave of a loved one. They will not be alone. They will be surrounded by other Gold Star families from these and other wars who share with them the same sacrifice and loss, the same pride and even some of the same stories. They will comfort one another, even as they grieve for themselves.
There isn’t much the rest of us can do to assuage that grief. The pain of such loss is incalculable. But we can, and we should, promise them that we will remember those who lived and loved and fought for this country — a young man or woman who, when duty called, performed that duty nobly and with passion. We can — and we should — take pains to remember also the special needs of surviving family members, especially the children. Theirs will be an extraordinary life.
If it’s true that a nation defines itself by those it honors, let us also define ourselves by those we support.