Mothers of fallen service members honored in Punchbowl ceremony

Mothers of fallen service members honored in Punchbowl ceremony

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sunday was Gold Star Mother's Day, a day to honor those women whose military sons and daughters lost their lives in service to their country.

The last Sunday in September was designated as Gold Star Mother's Day in 1936. But the day wasn't marked with a special ceremony in Hawaii, until this year.

About 30 of those mothers came to the ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl, including Fe Suyat Agno. She had encouraged her son, Army Staff Sgt. Randy Agno, to join the military, in part to be able to get an education. He died in 2009, on his third tour of duty, in Iraq.

"I regret that I lost him, but I don't regret that he joined the military, because I know that it's good for the country," Fe Agno said.

The idea for a ceremony came as one of the mothers looked at the statue of Lady Columbia at the head of the cemetery. She represents all the grieving mothers, watching over the fallen.

"Every solder that is in Punchbowl and every one of our veterans had a mother, and today we honor all of those mothers and families," said Gold Star mother Liz Olsen, who is also a family support officer with the U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii.

"Since I sit here at the cemetery with my son and husband at least once a week, I looked up at Lady Columbia and I had the crazy idea, 'let's put a lei around her neck,'" said Olsen. While that was impossible this year because of construction around the statue, Olsen said she may try to have it done next year.

Instead, the mothers brought a 30-foot-long ti leaf lei up the stairs and placed it at the base of the statue. They also brought the boots of the fallen, along with their pictures.

Gold Star Mothers was established as an organization in 1928, after the custom of military families placing a flag with a gold star in the window of their home to honor family members who died in service. The Mothers how help each other as well, including Carmen Stagner, who lost her son, Kekoa, in 2008.

"At the beginning I would hesitate to go up and comfort the person, but now, I don't even know the person, (but) I'll just come and say, 'I understand," Stagner said.

"I continue to go every time we have a meeting or an event," said Agno. "I try myself to be there for the sake of my son, and for myself."

They also could reflect on the words inscribed at the base of the statue of Lady Columbia, from a letter written by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 to a mother who lost five sons in the American Civil War:

"The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

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