Governor Proclaims May 24th, 2013 as the First Gold Star Family Day in Tennessee
Nashville, TN – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam joined Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Major General Terry “Max” Haston of the Tennessee Military Department to pay tribute to three Tennesseans killed in action, including a soldier previously missing in action for 62 years.
Sergeant Jacob M. Schwallie of Clarksville, was fatally injured by a roadside bomb on May 7th, 2012 in the Ghazi Province, Afghanistan. Schwallie graduated from Rossview High School in 2007 and enlisted in the United States Army in 2008.
Private First Class Glenn Shely Schoenmann reportedly died as a Prisoner of War (POW) on December 29th, 1950. The Grundy County native was involved in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea on November 28th, 1950 when he went missing. The United States Army Soldier was 20-years old when he was killed. Navy veteran Raymond Schoenmann accepted the state’s memorial presentation on behalf of his older brother.
Staff Sergeant Christopher Michael Ward of Oak Ridge was fatally wounded when his patrol was struck by a car bomb on April 6th, 2013 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Ward was serving with Troop “A”, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Stewart, Georgia when he was killed. Joyce Ward accepted the state’s memorial presentation on behalf of her son.
For the first time in the state’s history, Governor Haslam declared May 24th, 2013 as Gold Star Family Day. Previously, the state has observed Gold Star Mothers’ Day and Gold Star Wives’ Day, but fathers, siblings and grandparents have also suffered the loss of a service member killed while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Gold Star Dad and Gold Star Mom Wayne and Brenda Gearheart accepted the first proclamation presentation from Haslam during the Governor’s Memorial Day Ceremony. Their son, United States Marine Lance Corporal Benjamin Gearheart was killed in a training accident at Camp Pendleton, California on August 27th, 1997. Gearheart served three years in the Marine Corps to include a deployment to Kuwait. He was 22-years old.
“This occasion is set aside to remember the young men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” Haslam said. “The State of Tennessee also pauses to remember the surviving family members on this Memorial Day weekend as they continue to cope with the loss of their loved one.”
“It is a privilege and honor to recognize these brave heroes who will live on in our memories,” Grinder said. “Gold Star family members are all around us and they need our support because their sacrifices are also a valuable thread in the fabric that ties our state and country together.”
“Memorial Day is a day to remember all those who died serving in the Armed Forces,” Maj. Gen. Haston said. “We honor these men and women today, but we remember their sacrifice every day.”
This year is also the first time the state has presented the “Honor and Remember Flag” to surviving family members. The flag is a combination of memorial symbolism to include a large red section which represents blood spilled by service members in America’s military throughout history.
The blue star represents active service in military conflicts from the American Revolution to present day. The white border around the gold star recognizes the purity of sacrifice. The gold star reflects the value of life that was given. The folded flag signifies the final tribute to an individual life that a family sacrificed and gave to the nation. The flame is an eternal reminder of the spirit that has departed this life yet burns on in the memory of all who knew and loved the fallen hero.