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      Gold Star families gather to remember

      Luminaries on Sunday memorialize some of the 160 Missourians killed while serving in the armed forces since 9/11.

      Hundreds of luminaries lined a pathway at Bethel Park Sunday evening as families of fallen mid-Missouri servicemembers marked Gold Star Mothers Day.

      Macon resident Cheryl Blaise has attended countless Gold Star events since her son Michael died in a 2004 helicopter crash in Iraq. She said events like this one help families of fallen servicemembers connect with others going through the same thing and share ways to cope.

      â??Know that youâ??re not alone. That there are other people going through the exact same thing that youâ??ve gone through, or youâ??re currently going through,â?? she said.

      Michael Blaise is one of 160 Missourians who have died while wearing their countryâ??s uniform since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Each one was memorialized with a luminary at Sundayâ??s ceremony. Their families and members of the public also set out one luminary for each member of a fallen Missourianâ??s family. In all, those attending the ceremony set out 350 luminaries, each adorned with the gold star that symbolizes a family member killed in action.

      MarineParents.com founder Tracy Della Vecchia helped start the nationwide luminary ceremonies in 2007 when she noticed no ceremonies of any kind were being held to mark Gold Star Mothersâ?? Day. That day has always fallen on the last Sunday in September since 1936.

      â??It always happened, but nothing extraordinary ever happened to celebrate it or to bring recognition to it,â?? she said. â??And so thatâ??s at the point in time that we decided to start doing the luminary initiative, and it became national literally overnight.â??

      Blaise pointed out many of the families in attendance, such as the family of Sterling Wyatt, lost children within the last couple of years. For them, the pain of loss is still very raw.

      â??You still grieve and you still remember and youâ??re still sad, but time does help put everything in perspective,â?? she said. â??Just know that your child, or your grown-up, actually, had given their life in the most honorable way that could be, and had chosen to do this.â??

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