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  • Britt Myers

Supporting Grief: Honoring Our Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day and Beyond

Memorial Day is a solemn occasion to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. It is a day to collectively acknowledge and honor the bravery and dedication of those who have given their lives in military service, and to reflect on the enduring impact of loss on families and communities. 

The Gold Star family is one that has experienced a loss of a loved one – an immediate family member – who died as the result of active-duty military service. Those who die in service to their country leave behind parents, siblings, spouses, children and extended families. These are recognized as Gold Star families. The title is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief, and continued healing.

For families of fallen heroes, those feelings can be heightened during Memorial Day commemorations.

Family members honor and remember their fallen service member.

Memorial Day can be a deeply emotional time for veterans, too, bringing feelings of grief and sorrow to the forefront. Veterans often develop strong bonds with their fellow service members, forged through shared experiences and hardships. Memorial Day serves as a stark reminder of these losses, and the memories of friends and colleagues who did not return home can evoke a deep sense of grief. For some veterans, the day may amplify feelings of isolation and loneliness, particularly if they feel disconnected from the civilian population who may not fully understand the depth of their experiences and losses. 

While the pain of losing a loved one can be overwhelming, there are many organizations dedicated to supporting veterans, families, and individuals as they navigate their grief. Here, we highlight five outstanding organizations that provide essential resources and support for those coping with loss on Memorial Day and beyond.

Boot Campaign reiterates that "You Matter."

Boot Campaign is dedicated to igniting the inner patriot in all Americans and providing life-improving programs for veterans and military families. By raising awareness of the challenges service members face and offering holistic and personalized care, Boot Campaign supports veterans and families in their healing journey. 

Their programs address the physical and emotional health of those left behind, ensuring that the memory of the fallen is honored through action and support.

Children of Fallen Patriots is committed to providing college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. 

The organization serves the families of servicemembers from all branches of the armed forces who have died as a result of combat casualties, military training accidents, service-related illnesses, suicide, as well as other duty-related deaths as ruled by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Statistics on children of fallen patriots.

Recognizing that the loss of a parent can create financial and emotional strain, Children of Fallen Patriots offers critical support to help these children pursue their dreams. Remembering the fallen also means supporting their children, ensuring they have the resources to succeed and honor their parents' legacy. The vision of the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation is to ensure that every child of a fallen patriot receives all necessary college funding.

The Gary Sinise Foundation serves our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. They do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities, including the Snowball Express and H.O.P.E.

Snowball Express serves the children of fallen military heroes, surviving spouses, and Gold Star families. Through community events, educational programs, and a special annual holiday retreat, Snowball Express brings together families to form lasting friendships and find comfort in shared experiences. 

The holidays can be especially challenging for grieving families. Each December, the Gary Sinise Foundation hosts a five-day experience at the Walt Disney World Resort for 1,750+ children of the fallen and the surviving spouse/guardian. 

The Gary Sinise Foundation Snowball Express

With special time to honor their fallen and a blend of fun entertainment and inspiring programs, these families can lean on their peers for support. These gatherings help families to heal, remember, and celebrate the lives of their loved ones in a supportive environment.

The Gary Sinise Foundation also offers broad support to veterans and others who have experienced trauma or loss. Its H.O.P.E. initiative - heal, overcome, persevere, and excel - seeks to bring people together to form a network of support. By sharing their experiences and reminding one another they are not alone, these groups can find joy in the present once again.

Folds of Honor provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of America's fallen and disabled service members, awarding over 52,000 educational scholarships since 2007. By alleviating the financial burden of education, Folds of Honor ensures that the dreams of those who have sacrificed so much are kept alive through the achievements of their loved ones. 

Folds of Honor

Folds of Honor stands behind the symbol of a folded flag, as it reflects their mission to honor the sacrifice of America’s heroes while giving hope to the bearers of their legacy. This Memorial Day and beyond, Folds of Honor reminds us that honoring our heroes means supporting their families' futures.

America's Gold Star Families offers support and services to families who have lost a loved one in military service. Their programs include peer support, grief resources, and memorial events that help families connect and heal.

America's Gold Star Families

Many people are unaware of the significance of the Gold Star banner and its meaning. America’s Gold Star Families is committed to educating others on this important designation, how to properly respond when meeting someone who has lost a loved one in service to our country and advocating for their needs.

By creating a community of support, America's Gold Star Families ensures that no family has to grieve alone and that the sacrifices of their loved ones are never forgotten.

America's Warrior Partnership aims to empower communities to support veterans and their families, including those who have lost a loved one in service. Their holistic approach focuses on proactive outreach and connecting families with the resources they need to thrive. 

America's Warrior Partnership empowers communities to empower veterans.

America’s Warrior Partnership Network is a national coordination platform that expands the reach of local veteran organizations by connecting them to national resources. When a local resource is unavailable or exhausted, veteran service organizations can work with AWP’s network to find vetted, quality partners to collaborate with in delivering needed services. 

Individual veterans may also refer themselves to The Network when they are not sure where to go for a particular resource. By fostering strong community networks, America's Warrior Partnership helps ensure that grieving families receive comprehensive support, honoring the legacy of their fallen heroes.

Honoring the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

These organizations offer crucial opportunities for fellowship and community, helping veterans and families navigate the complex emotions that surface as they remember their fallen heroes. Grief is a deeply personal experience, yet it is often easier to manage when shared with others. Whether through virtual gatherings or in-person events, coming together to share stories and participate in traditions can provide solace and support. 

This Memorial Day, as we reflect on the sacrifices made by our brave service members, let us also acknowledge and support the families and fellow service members who continue to bear the weight of their loss. By engaging with and supporting organizations like Boot Campaign, Children of Fallen Patriots, Gary Sinise Foundation, Folds of Honor, America's Gold Star Families, and America's Warrior Partnership, we can help ensure that the legacies of our fallen heroes are honored and remembered in meaningful ways.

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