They suffer in silence, for the most part, but their pain is much deeper than any of us can imagine. They were there, at home, when the Chaplains arrived. The vague worries that had been an undercurrent in their lives turned in an instant into bottomless anguish. They wanted a do-over. They wanted a second chance to finish interrupted conversations, hold the hugs that could have been longer, say the words that should have been said. Their memories stopped, limited forevermore to the time until that moment.
They are the families of the fallen. They are called Gold Star families, after the traditional symbol displayed in the windows of wartime homes after a loved one had been lost. But really, when it boils down to it, they are simply people who will live with the pain of sudden loss for the rest of their lives.
Their only comfort is in remembering, and they do that religiously, solemnly, and with dignity. They visit the graves, the memorials, and pay tribute to the sons and daughters they raised from birth.
They do not ask for much – only that we remember their loved ones as well. But even if others don’t, the Gold Star families will. You see, their love is never diminished by time, or overcome by events. No recognition or comforting words will ever replace the unbreakable bond of family.
And our hearts break for them.