Written by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington
Tennessee National Guard J9 Military and Family Readiness
Nashville, TN – Any given Sunday you’ll find the Nashville Sounds in camouflage for Military Sunday. It’s their tribute to the impact veterans and service members have made on our country.
This Sunday, the team did more than honor service members and their families with their apparel; they made an impact on families of fallen heroes, ensuring these important legacies live on in our community and in their families.
In an effort with the Tennessee National Guard’s Survivor Outreach Services (SOS), the Nashville Sounds took the opportunity to honor not only veterans and service members, but military families that have made the ultimate sacrifice – the life of their loved ones.
These families are known as Gold Star families, a term that originates from the gold star pins the Department of Defense presents to the families of those killed in action.
Before the game, The Sounds welcomed eight families onto the field as their fallen hero was recognized by name, service, and rank.
Brad Tammen, general manager for the Nashville Sounds, coordinated the event and marveled at the outcome of positive emotion it created.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for everyone to step forward and give back. It was a really special moment down there before the game,” he said.
The crowd stood and cheered as an emotional nostalgia washed over the stadium during the ceremony.
While veterans have endured the brunt of over a decade of war, their families have weathered those impacts as well. Military families often endure duty station changes, deployments, and sometimes the death of their loved ones.
Russ Maxey, Tennessee’s Survivor Outreach Services Support coordinator, spoke of the special impact created by announcing each service member’s name.
“A lot of times, families feel like their loved one is forgotten, and opportunities like this keep that person alive; never forgotten,” Maxey said.
Amber Diaz’s husband, Army Cpl. Issac Diaz, was killed in action in Sharona, Afghanistan, in 2004. Their son, Aaron Diaz, was just 3 years old when his father passed away. Amber agrees that continuing to recognize her husband has helped his memory to live.
“I’m not the type of person to wear a T-shirt with his name on it every day, but it does mean a lot to come here and remind people of him and to remind people of what Gold Star families are,” she said.
Amber’s son, Aaron, nervously threw out the first pitch of the game in honor of his father. Sounds players and team staff high-fived Aaron and cheered for him as he came off the field. Once in the stands, he joked and laughed with his friends, other children of Gold Star families.
Amber says events like these have helped Aaron cope with the loss of his father. “It helps him grieve and build his self-esteem. He feels better about himself because he knows he’s not the only kid that has to live without his dad.”
Tammen said he was grateful for the opportunity to honor the military families before the game.
Tammen encourages other organizations to become involved and support veterans and Gold Star families. “If it wasn’t for our military families, we wouldn’t have the freedom that we have to do what we love to do. So I’d encourage everyone to step forward and support the military and their families.”
Survivor Outreach Services, or SOS, is one of many organizations that coordinate events and outings for surviving family members. As their coordinator, Maxey continuously looks for opportunities to support Gold Star families and encourages organizations to sponsor events and services.
“Something as big as the Sounds giving seats to a game or Piedmont Natural Gas giving baseball caps to the kids – it all makes an impact, and the families appreciate it,” he said.
If you are a surviving family member or you would like more information about sponsorship, please contact Maxey with Survivor Outreach Services at 615.355.3701.