In Maine, we take great care to honor the brave men and women, who paid the ultimate sacrifice abroad. But we cannot forget the devoted families – the Gold Star families – that these heroic service members left behind; the families whose lives were forever changed.

As one of our final acts of the year, my colleagues and I in the Legislature passed a bill to create a memorial in Augusta’s Capitol Park (across the street from the State House) honoring the sacrifice and dedication of Maine’s Gold Star families. It certainly was a moving day in Augusta.
Families of veterans, particularly those who died in service, deserve our recognition and support. In fact, I think this memorial is long overdue. It’s why I was especially proud to cast my vote in favor of the memorial with a handful of Gold Star families seated in the Senate Chamber. With my vote, I wanted to not just pass this critical legislation but also send a message of solidarity to these families. I wanted them to know that they are not alone in their grief; we all stand and mourn right there alongside them.
Losing someone in a war is hard on everyone – families and communities – and the emotional toll lingers throughout several generations.
My mother became a Gold Star widow on Christmas Eve of 1944. Her first husband died while serving overseas with the U.S. Army in the English Channel during World War II. After eight years of marriage, my mother found herself a widow and single mother to two children at the age of twenty-nine. She must have felt so alone as the world came crashing down upon her.
Eventually, she married my father, had three more children and moved forward with her life. But as most Gold Star family members can understand all too well, the trauma and the grief remained. It’s why my mother raised her children to pay homage to those lost in battle and why I grew up mourning a man I never met.
This kind of pain never really goes away. Life goes on with both the good and the bad but the grief is permanent. In the darkest days of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I received a phone call from my mother’s nursing home at 10:30 p.m. They said she was inconsolable. When I finally got her on the phone, I realized she was reliving the day she learned of her first husband’s death after hearing about a contemporary wartime casualty on the local news. More than half a century later, the pain was still very real.
That’s why the Gold Star Family Memorial in Capitol Park is so important. It serves as a physical marker of their grief, a place for families with similar tragedies to connect and a place to acknowledge not just the sacrifices of our veterans but of their families too.
Construction on the memorial began last week and is expected to be completed sometime next year. In the meantime, as we honor our servicemen and women on Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, POW/MIA Recognition Day and really every day, let’s also pause to honor all of our military families, especially Maine’s Gold Star families.
Sunday marked Gold Star Mother’s Day. If you know a Gold Star mother, I encourage you to reach out and show your support. No one should carry this grief alone.
Sen. Susan Deschambault is a fourth-generation, life-long resident of Biddeford, who represents her home city and the towns of Alfred, Arundel, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman in the Maine Senate. She is currently serving her second term.

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